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Western Views of Islam 

in Medieval and Early 

Modern Europe 

Perception of Other 

Edited by 
David R. Blanks and Michael Frassetto 

Western Views of Islam 

in Medieval and Early 

Modern Europe 

This page intentionally left blank 

Western Views of Islam 

in Medieval and Early 

Modern Europe 

Perception of Other 

Edited by 

David R. Blanks 
and Michael Frassetto 

St. Martin's Press 
New York 


Copyright © David R. Blanks and Michael Frassetto, 1999. All rights reserved. 
Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or 
reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the 
case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, 
address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010. 

ISBN 0-312-21891-5 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Western views of Islam in medieval and early modern Europe : 

perception of other / edited by David R. Blanks and Michael 

p. cm. 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

ISBN 0-312-21891-5 

1. Christianity and other religions — Islam. 2. Islam — Relations — 
Christianity. 3. Islam — Historiography. I. Blanks, David R., 
1961-. II. Frassetto, Michael. 
BP172.W49 1999 

305.6'971'00902— dc21 99-11036 


Design by Letra Libre, Inc. 

First edition: December, 1999 

10 987654321 

Dedicated with gratitude to our teacher 
Richard Sullivan 

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Table Of Contents 

Acknowledgments ix 

Introduction 1 

1. Western Views of Islam in the Premodern Period: 

A Brief History of Past Approaches 1 1 

David R. Blanks 

2. Popular Attitudes Toward Islam in Medieval Europe 55 

Jo Ann Hoeppner Moran Cruz 

3. The Image of the Saracen as Heretic in the Sermons 

of Ademar of Chabannes 83 

Michael Frassetto 

4. Muslims as Pagan Idolaters in Chronicles 

of the First Crusade 97 

John V. Tolan 

5. The Essential Enemy: The Image of the Muslim 
as Adversary and Vassal in the Law and Literature 

of the Medieval Crown of Aragon 119 

Donald J. Kagay 

6. Arabs and Latins in the Middle Ages: 

Enemies, Partners, and Scholars 137 

Alauddin Samarrai 

7 . Islam in the Glossa Ordinaria 147 

Ernest N. Kaulbach 

8. "Seven trewe bataylis for Jesus Sake": 

The Long-Suffering Saracen Palomides 165 

Nina Dulin-Mallory 

9. Noble Saracen or Muslim Enemy? 

The Changing Image of the Saracen in Late 

Medieval Italian Literature 173 

Gloria Allaire 

10. "New Barbarian" or Worthy Adversary? 
Humanist Constructs of the Ottoman Turks 

in Fifteenth-Century Italy 185 

Nancy Bisaha 

1 1. Early Modern Orientalism: 
Representations of Islam in Sixteenth-and 
Seventeenth-Century Europe 207 

Daniel J. Vitkus 

List of Contributors 231 

Index 233 


The editors of this volume would like to thank the many people who 
have helped it reach its successful conclusion. We would like to 
thank the Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University and 
the American University in Cairo for offering forums for the initial presen- 
tation of several of the essays in this book. We would also like to thank 
Michael Flamini for his encouragement and support in the development of 
this volume and Mara Nelson for her help in the final preparation of this 
book. We owe many thanks to this book's contributors whose hard work and 
cooperation provide what value we may claim for it. Finally, and most im- 
portantly, we would like to offer a special word of thanks to those who have 
provided us with our greatest support. Michael Frassetto would like to thank 
Jill and Olivia for their help on this project and in other things too numer- 
ous to mention. David Blanks would like to thank his wife, Nadia Wassef, 
for her love and encouragement. 

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Western Views of Islam 

in Medieval and Early 

Modern Europe 

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Intro due tion 

D avid R . Blanks and Mich acl Frassctto 

Aristotle thought that the peoples of Europe were courageous in war- 
fare but dull-witted on account of the cold. The peoples of Asia, by 
contrast, were warm: therefore they were intelligent and skillful. 
Unfortunately, the heat also sapped their strength. According to Aristotle, 
this explained the intelligence and courage of the Greeks who lived between 
Europe and Asia and inherited the best of both worlds. 

The Romans thought differently. They described the peoples of Asia as 
ferocious fighters. Recalling an episode from the battle of Adrianople (378), 
where the Roman legions were aided by Arab mercenaries, Ammianus Mar- 
cellinus tells the story of one of the Arabs, a wild, hairy man, naked except 
for a loincloth, who rushed into the center of the enemy line, stabbed in the 
neck the first Goth he saw, then drank his blood. It seems that the unex- 
pected encounter worked wonders for the Romans. Ammianus observes that 
after witnessing this lycanthropic display, "[the Goths] did not show their 
usual self-confidence." 1 

These varied perceptions remind us not just that the East has always held 
a certain fascination for westerners; more importantly, the European view of 
the "other," like the European view of the "self," has since classical times re- 
volved around an ever-changing set of historical circumstances. And as pro- 
found and complex as East- West relations were in the ancient world, how 
much more intense they would become with the spread of monotheism and 
the addition of a potent spiritual dimension to what was already an uneasy in- 
tercourse between rival civilizations. By the eleventh century, when Western 


writers were finally beginning to form a notion of what it meant to be Euro- 
pean, they found themselves confronted by a powerful and threatening Islam, 
which they by and large were neither able nor willing to understand. To be 
sure, there were other important elements that went into the construction of 
the Western identity: Europe was also the product of internal colonization and 
cultural assimilation. 2 Yet the encounter with the Muslim "other" was ele- 
mental to the shaping of the Western world view. This was especially true dur- 
ing those centuries that began with the crusades and ended with the 
dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. 

Whether or not one agrees with Richard Southern's conviction that 
Islam was Christendom's greatest problem, 3 the West was engaged with the 
Muslim world in countless ways. The crusades and the Reconquista were 
only part of the story; and while these episodes and others like them were 
the source of much of the hostility toward Islam, there was nearly always 
an undercurrent of conflicting viewpoints that flowed back into Europe to 
ameliorate the dominant tradition. Diplomats, merchants, theologians, 
artists, poets, women and children, people from every class, pilgrims, 
slaves, criminals, camp followers — all had East- West connections, and 
those who returned brought home tales of wonder and disgust. These var- 
ied impressions, mixed with a set of preconceived ideas, were spread 
through stories, poems, folktales, and sermons, but mostly through word- 
of-mouth, and eventually a set of notions was formed from which all Eu- 
ropeans drew their collective perceptions of the "other" and from which 
every European would have to choose those elements that informed his or 
her personal opinion. 

During the Renaissance, which saw the world through new eyes, well 
worn stereotypes of Muhammad and Islam were overlaid with fresh impres- 
sions. In the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries more informed 
and, on occasion, more tolerant attitudes began to appear. The Saracens be- 
came Moors and Turks, Islam became somewhat better understood, there 
was increased commercial and military activity in the Mediterranean, and 
the level of European cultural sophistication rose to the point where more 
nuanced views were made possible, at least in elite circles. 

After that, historical circumstances evolved ever more quickly. In the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries European regimes either became 
stronger or crumbled while trying to cope with recurrent economic and se- 
curity crises. These were rural revolts, urban riots, and political upheavals; 
there were scientific and eventually technological breakthroughs; national- 
ism was born; societies were organized in untried ways; new concepts circu- 
lated that stirred the stifling air of ideological oppression. Inevitably, still 
more images of the Muslim were raised next to the old, but they were not 
solely the products of the Age of Reason. Romanticism rebelled against the 


idea of a rationally constructed social contract in favor of a European iden- 
tity that was emotional, exclusive, irrational, and, above all, communal and 
racial. This is where the story gets picked up by modern scholars searching 
for the origins of Orientalism and Eurocentrism, but it is overly simplistic 
to assume, as many have, that medieval and Renaissance attitudes were car- 
ried whole cloth into the modern world. Without doubt there was some 
continuity, which is one of the reasons that it is important to continue to ex- 
plore premodern perceptions, but it is just as important to note the breaks 
and discontinuities, to separate long-standing prejudices and misconcep- 
tions from modern stereotypes that more often than not arise from entirely 
modern conditions. 

Thus in regards to western views of Islam, the eighteenth and nineteenth 
centuries must be considered a prominent cultural and historical frontier. By 
then the Muslim military threat had been met and the European psychology 
had begun to change. Until then, however, Islam was a danger all too real. 
The struggle over Spain, the collapse of the crusader states, piracy in the 
Mediterranean, the fall of Constantinople, the precarious position of Vi- 
enna: all served to kindle hostility and fear. 

Southern's observation that Islam was Europe's greatest problem is a valu- 
able one because it recognizes not only the threat of Islam but also the more 
serious question of definition and understanding. During the Middle Ages, 
Islamic civilization was far ahead of its Christian rival, offering enticing ad- 
vances in architecture, law, literature, philosophy, and, indeed, in most areas 
of cultural activity. It was therefore from a position of military and, perhaps 
more importantly, cultural weakness that Christian Europe developed nega- 
tive images, some of which survive to the present day. In part, this hostility 
was the result of continued political and military conflict, but it likewise en- 
sued from a Western sense of cultural inferiority. 

Thus the Western need to construct an image of the Muslim, of the 
"other," was a twofold process that came to dominate the premodern dis- 
course concerning Islam. 5 On the one hand, it created an image of the Sara- 
cen, Moor, or Turk that was wholly alien and wholly evil. In both popular 
and learned literature Muslims were portrayed as cowardly, duplicitous, lust- 
ful, self-indulgent pagans who worshipped idols and a trinity of false gods. 
On the other hand, the creation of such a blatantly false stereotype enabled 
Western Christians to define themselves. Indeed, the Muslim became, in a 
sense, a photographic negative of the self-perception of an ideal Christian 
self-image, one that portrayed Europeans as brave, virtuous believers in the 
one true God and the one true faith. By debasing the image of their rivals, 
Western Christians were enhancing their own self-images and trying to 
build self-confidence in the face of a more powerful and more culturally so- 
phisticated enemy. 


The emergence of Islam posed another problem as well, one that South- 
ern did not consider. Despite the hostilities, the peoples of the Mediter- 
ranean share deep cultural traditions that predate the rise of monotheism, 
but that were reinforced with the spread of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam 
from the Middle East into Europe and North Africa. And despite the 
protests of ephemeral generations of combatants, which are recorded in 
chronicles, poems, and plays, there are profound ties that attract and bind 
two civilizations that encounter one another with a startling sense of deja vu. 
In fact, the "great problem" may have been one of accommodation rather 
than confrontation. Sicily, Spain, and the crusader states were battlefields 
but they were also places of important cultural exchange. It is often noted, 
for example, that crusaders who remained in the Holy Lands were better as- 
similated to local Arabo-Islamic culture than were the new arrivals. Cer- 
vantes's "Captive's Tale" gives the same impression. So too does the history 
of Salah al-Din, who came to be regarded as a respected and worthy oppo- 
nent. Gradually the stories about him that filtered back to Europe were nur- 
tured into legends. 

And of course there were significant scholarly exchanges as well. Perhaps 
the clearest instance of this can be found in the activities of Peter the Vener- 
able and his associates, most notably Robert of Ketton, who consulted Mus- 
lim scholars for his Latin translation of the Qur'an. 7 Christian thought owed 
a great debt to Muslim theologians and philosophers, especially Avicenna 
(Ibn Sina) who was respected as the translator of Aristotle. 8 In literature, too, 
Islam exercised a positive influence on the development of European cul- 
ture. 9 Consequently, whether our premodern ancestors were conscious of it 
or not, there was much positive exchange across a very hostile frontier. 

How then should we characterize Muslim-Christian relations before the 
eighteenth century? Acts of aggression — military and literary — were com- 
mitted by both sides. Hostile attitudes lingered alongside a literary record 
that offered less inflammatory alternatives. It is the purpose of this book to 
examine this paradox, to explore the variety of images of the Muslim in our 
premodern sources, and to consider the influence of those perceptions on 
Western views of Islam as they evolved in an increasingly complex and mu- 
tually interdependent world. 

The difficulties facing modern scholars, and the variety of images to be found 
in premodern writings, are explored in the essays by David R. Blanks and Jo 
Ann Hoeppner Moran Cruz. Together they show that modern scholars have 
a tendency to simply assume a degree of enmity toward Islam by medieval 
and early modern writers that did not exist in any uniform fashion. In his 
study of modern scholarly literature, Blanks argues that just as our medieval 
predecessors created an image of the "East," so too have modern scholars. 


Since the early nineteenth century they have viewed Islam and the East 
through a variety of lenses, at first polemical and then with increasing objec- 
tivity. 10 Blanks both downplays the continuity of medieval and modern atti- 
tudes and emphasizes the idea that premodern perceptions of Islam were 
more varied and complex than is generally held, a suggestion confirmed in 
the essay by Moran Cruz. She too rejects the tendency to regard medieval at- 
titudes as uniform and static, noting that historians have done away with uni- 
versalist notions of medieval social and cultural structures everywhere except 
in consideration of attitudes toward Islam. Although the chansons de gestes 
presented an uncomplimentary image, other popular literature was less criti- 
cally disposed. Moran Cruz explains that although the official stance of the 
church was hostile, many ecclesiastics sought a better understanding of this 
eastern religion and actively studied the works of Muslim theologians. 

The contributions by Michael Frassetto and John Tolan focus on the 
dominant negative tradition and its attendant stereotypes. Frassetto looks at 
the creation of images of "other" in the early eleventh century, an issue raised 
recently by R. I. Moore. 11 For Frassetto, the early eleventh-century writings 
of Ademar of Chabannes provide an example of hostility toward Islam based 
upon ignorance. Drawing upon his own eschatological fears, Ademar saw 
Saracens as minions of Antichrist who possessed a wide array of evil charac- 
teristics. In some ways Ademar's polemical approach to Islam prefigures the 
attitudes found in the crusader chronicles. Focusing especially on the writ- 
ings of Petrus Tudebodus, Tolan discovers many of the stereotypes that 
would become commonplace in medieval literature. Tudebodus and the 
other chroniclers of the First Crusade placed their war in the context of sa- 
cred history and compared the crusaders with the martyrs of the early 
church who struggled against paganism. The Muslims became the new pa- 
gans and the crusaders the new martyrs spreading the gospel. Tolan notes 
that as pagans the Muslims worshipped idols and multiple gods and blas- 
phemed the true God. Consequently, these chroniclers declared, they would 
be punished by God's faithful crusaders. 

This militant Christian posture was also found in medieval Spain, but 
not unequivocally. As Donald Kagay explains, the law and literature of me- 
dieval Aragon reveals an official ambivalence toward Muslim subjects that 
left room for, or in some cases, actually encouraged accommodation. Indeed, 
James I (1213—76) respected and protected his Muslim vassals. Yet James 
himself also saw war with Islam as a divine mission, and the long history of 
Islam in Spain, from the eighth century to the fifteenth, offered numerous 
opportunities for open conflict between Christians and Muslims. These pro- 
longed clashes led to the depiction of Muslims as barbarous, cowardly, and 
lustful. Kagay reveals how the image of Spanish Muslims was enslaved by the 
stereotypes Europeans were constructing for themselves. 


Alauddin Samarrai and Ernest Kaulbach go even further in the search for 
cultural accommodation. In spite of the long-standing grievances and deeply 
felt hatreds, Samarrai prefers to emphasize the shared Judeo-Christian tradi- 
tions along with the common heritage of the ancient world. He sees 
monotheism and scholarly exchanges in science, literature, and philosophy 
as being far more important than the intermittent warfare between these two 
intrinsically Mediterranean civilizations. For Samarrai, medieval civilization 
was a synthesis, a concept he reinforces by examining the Arabic as well as 
the Latin tradition. Moreover, as Kaulbach demonstrates in his investigation 
of the Glossa Ordinaria, Christian scholars consciously borrowed from the 
Muslim intellectuals. Throughout the twelfth century Christian theologians 
studied the Qur'an and Arabic translations of ancient texts, a practice that 
was followed by thirteenth-century masters like Phillip the Chancellor, Jean 
de la Rochelle, and Alexander of Hales. Their work would continue to be in- 
fluenced by the traditions of Arabic-Aristotelian science. The methods they 
used and conclusions they drew would find their way into popular literature 
like Piers Plowman. 

Interestingly, it was precisely in such popular literature that some of the 
most positive portrayals of Muslims would appear. Take for example the 
fifteenth-century fiction of Thomas Malory. As Nina Dulin-Mallory 
points out, the Saracen Palomides is characterized as a great knight who 
possessed all the virtues usually ascribed to good Christian knights. Al- 
though ultimately accepting baptism, Palomides performed valiant and 
courageous acts as a Saracen. Dulin-Mallory flushes out the sources of the 
Palomides legend and shows how the image of this particular Saracen 
evolved into the complex but virtuous figure evoked in the Morte Darthur. 

Italian sources from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance also reveal a 
by-now-familiar ambivalence. As Gloria Allaire and Nancy Bisaha demon- 
strate, the range of attitudes found in earlier texts resurfaces in Italy in the 
fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. Allaire compares a number of 
fifteenth-century Italian texts with the older French chansons to determine 
how and in what ways the image of the Muslim/Saracen changed. She dis- 
covers that many of the traditional stereotypes — polytheism, treachery, cru- 
elty, etc. — carry over into Renaissance literature, but she finds in those same 
texts the development of a new character, "Noble Saracen." Although Mus- 
lims continue to be regarded with suspicion, there was a tendency to present 
them in less diabolical and more human terms. 

Similarly, in her discussion of Renaissance humanist texts, Bisaha finds 
the firstborn sons of modern discourse on Islam in the writings of Petrarch, 
Leonardo Bruni, and others. A more "modern" perspective took shape that 
prefigured the attitudes of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century commenta- 
tors. Furthermore, Bisaha highlights the fact that Italian writers adopted a 


noticeably secular perspective toward their enemies, one that they found in 
the classical texts they were using as models. Notwithstanding these positive 
appraisals, which were increasingly in evidence, Bisaha concludes that most 
humanists still cast Turks as new barbarians: a nation of Goths bent on de- 
stroying civilization; a nation that must be destroyed; a threat worthy of a 
new a crusade. 

The final essay of the volume, by Daniel J. Vitkus, addresses Western at- 
titudes toward Islam and the East in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 
Vitkus discusses the influence of literary traditions on writers such as Sir 
Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser. Tracing the impact of earlier demo- 
nizations and the influence of rhetorical models found in classical and reli- 
gious texts, he makes the important point that for premodern audiences the 
distinctions between story and history, legend and chronicle were all but 
nonexistent. Likewise, he examines the role of sectarian controversies in the 
creation of an increasingly diverse body. The same ambivalent attitudes and 
paradoxes seen elsewhere were refashioned during the Reformation as 
preachers and politicians wrote favorably of the Turks — at least to the extent 
that they saw them as a scourge for their enemies — positive proof of divine 
justice. Yet due to the threat of Muslim wealth, military might, and cultural 
power, the prevailing views were antagonistic. According to Vitkus, the 
"Orientalism" described by Edward Said appeared in nascent form well be- 
fore the nineteenth century. 

Carl Becker, who worked on that shifty cultural and historical frontier, 
the eighteenth century, once remarked that each generation "must inevitably 
play on the dead whatever tricks it finds necessary for its own piece of 
mind." 12 The historians and literary critics who have written these essays are 
fascinated by those tricks, drawn by the desire to unravel the illusion. The 
aim is to reveal the deepest layers of medieval and early modern culture and 
to prove the past for clearer understandings of an East- West dynamic that 
continues to have tremendous force in the late twentieth century. They go 
about it by interviewing long-dead witnesses — preachers, princes, knights, 
clerks, judges, scholars, and poets. They peruse their private records, listen 
to their songs, attend their theater, drop in at their courts of law, and at- 
tempt to enter their dreams; their measure of success must be left to the 
reader to decide. 

Ironically, by demystifying the magic of memory, these essays simultane- 
ously open the past to new interpretations. Thus we end up playing our own 
tricks on the dead — and for reasons not dissimilar in their psychology to 
those that motivated the medieval and early modern scholars that we study. 
In order to ease our anxieties and insecurities, we try to tease out hints of 
tolerance and mutual respect. In a word, we search for similarities so that we 
can allay our fears, much in the same way that our predecessors emphasized 


difference in order to allay theirs. But today there is an added dimension. By 
elucidating the past we seek to exorcise the guilt of our ancestors and to re- 
dress the wrongs that premodern attitudes have wrought upon the present. 
Thus we also play our tricks so as to alleviate our culpability, a vague, uneasy 
feeling born of our more or less willing complicity in the stream of Western 
history. The measure of our success must be left to each of us to decide. 


Cited by John C. Lamoreaux, "Early Christian Responses to Islam," in Me- 
dieval Christian Perceptions of Islam, ed. John Victor Tolan (New York and 
London, 1996), 9. 

Robert Bartlett shows that to a large extent European identity was formed in 
the Middle Ages through the internal expansion of language and religion in 
what is now considered central and eastern Europe, see The Making of Eu- 
rope: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change, 950—1350 (Princeton, 

R. W. Southern, Western Vieivs of Islam in the Middle Ages, 2d printing 
(Cambridge, Mass., 1978), 3. 

It should be noted that we have accepted the modern spelling of the 
Prophet's name throughout this book but have reproduced the various 
spellings of his name according to the conventions of individual medieval 
and Renaissance authors when discussing those authors. 
Perhaps the most important discussion of this for the modern world, but one 
that has bearing on the premodern world, is that of Edward Said, Oriental- 
ism (London and New York, 1995). See also Norman Daniel, Islam and the 
West: The Making of an Image (Edinburgh, 1962), and R. I. Moore, The For- 
mation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe, 
950—1250 (Oxford, 1987), who argues that the creation of stereotypes of the 
"other" was an essential part of medieval European culture. For a different 
perspective — that of Islam toward the West — see Bernard Lewis, The Mus- 
lim Discovery of Europe (London, 1982). 

See John Rodenbeck, "Cervantes and Islam: Attitudes towards Islam and Is- 
lamic Culture in Don Quixote," in Images of Other: Europe and the Muslim 
World Before 1/00, ed. David R. Blanks (Cairo, 1997), 39-54; and John V. 
Tolan, "Mirror of Chivalry: Salah al-Din in the Medieval European Imagi- 
nation," in Images of the Other: Europe and the Muslim World Before 1700, 
ed. David R. Blanks (Cairo, 1997), 7-38. 

For the activities of Peter the Venerable, see James Kritzeck, Peter the Vener- 
able and Islam (Princeton, 1964), and Petrus Venerabilis 1 1 56— 1 956 Studies 
and Texts Commemorating the Eighth Century of his Death, eds. Giles Con- 
stable and James Kritzeck (Rome, 1956). See also Thomas E. Burman, 
"Tafiir and Translation: Traditional Arabic Qur'an Exegesis and the Latin 
Qur'ans of Robert of Ketton and Mark of Toledo," Speculum (1998): 


8. On the influence of Islamic theologians on Christian thinkers, see David 
Knowles, "Arabian and Jewish Philosophy," The Evolution of Medieval 
Thought (New York, 1962), esp. 193—96 for the influence of Avicenna. 

9. See, especially, Maria Rose Menocal, The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary 
History: A Torgotten Heritage (Philadelphia, 1987). 

10. We use this word guardedly considering its own uncertain history. For an 
important discussion of the historian and "objectivity" see Peter Novick, 
That Noble Dream. The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical 
Profession (Cambridge and New York, 1988). 

11. See Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society. See also Daniel Callahan, 
"Ademar of Chabannes, Millennial Fears and the Development of Western 
Anti-Judaism," The Journal of Ecclesiastical History AG (1995): 19—35. For a 
critique of Moore's view, see Beyond the Persecuting Society: Religious Tolera- 
tion Before the Enlightenment, ed. John Christian Laursen and Cary J. Ned- 
erman (Philadelphia, 1998). 

12. Carl Becker, Everyman His Own Historian (New York, 1935), 253. 

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Chapter One 

Western Views 

of Islam in the 

Premodern Period: 

A Brief History of 

Past Approaches 

D avid R. Blanks 

Cognoscitur inattingibilis veritatis unitas in alteritate coniecturali 

— Nicholas de Cusa (15th century) 

Disraeli was right: the East is a career. 1 It always has been. The ancient 
Greeks divided the world into halves, and for the past 25 centuries 
Western scholars, soldiers, politicians, missionaries, merchants, 
travelers, and artists have been journeying eastward, constructing their own 
private Orients, returning home, and making them public. Their motives 
were mixed; their prejudices, rarely examined. 

In the late twentieth century the East has become a career in a new way. 
Theorists have made their mark by deconstructing the narratives of earlier 
encounters, pulling apart assumptions and reexamining notions of objectiv- 
ity and authorial intention that historians and literary critics had long taken 
for granted. In little more than two decades, 25 centuries of texts lost their 


autonomy. Whatever else one may think of Edward Said and those who have 
followed his path, it is difficult to disagree with their basic contention that 
Western discourse has constructed an Orient that is often completely dis- 
connected from the "real" Orient (whatever that is). So Said takes delight in 
Disraeli's aphorism. Those who have made the East their career — from 
Herodotus and Hippocrates to the members of the Middle East Studies 
Association — have literally "made" their Easts. 2 The considerable scholarly 
debate over this issue has ranged from the insightful to the inane, but for the 
most part it has been limited to the period of liberalism, industrialization, 
and colonialism — in short, the modern world. 3 Analyses implicate the Mid- 
dle Ages, but there has been little examination of the premodern period by 
theorists, and little interest in theory on the part of medievalists. 

Yet there is much to ponder. Take for example the comment by Fulcher 
of Chartres in the early twelfth century: "Consider, I pray, and reflect how 
in our time God has transformed the Occident into the Orient. For we who 
were Occidentals have now become Orientals. . . . We have already forgot- 
ten the places of our birth." On the surface of it, Fulcher's observation is an 
ironic reversal of the modern Orientalist position. This medieval version of 
the discourse has the East imposing itself on westerners, but on a deeper 
level Fulcher's attitude serves to reinforce the differences between Occident 
and Orient, usually to the detriment of the latter. Here the discourse creates 
the discursive object in another reversal as well. Although modern observers 
have described the "crusades" and their attendant literature — a nexus of 
knowledge and power — as forms of colonialism and proto-Orientalism, this 
is not at all what the participants themselves thought they were doing. They 
were making pilgrimages to the Holy Land. It is little wonder that we have 
had such difficulty understanding Western views of Islam, when we have 
long misunderstood the medieval mind on its own terms quite apart from 
whatever interactions it might have had with alien cultures. 

On yet another level, it is easy to see that Fulcher's narrative mitigates 
against simplistic East/West binaries. Christians lived in Muslim territories 
and their experiences varied widely depending upon time, place, and cir- 
cumstance. My focus here will be upon the heterogeneity of the Western 
discourse; at the same time, it must be remembered that the greatest divi- 
sion in Christian attitudes toward Islam was between that of the native 
Eastern Churches and the Latins. 5 We must also keep in mind that al- 
though few Muslims lived in Christian territories (with notable exceptions 
in eleventh-century Sicily and post-Reconquista Spain), there were vibrant 
Muslim communities and powerful Muslim states in Spain, North Africa, 
Sicily, and Eastern Europe, so obviously "East" and "West" are also inade- 
quate categories. Nonetheless, by the thirteenth century Europe had de- 
veloped a self-identity, especially among the elites, that might properly be 


called "Western." This identity was primarily Latin Christian at first, but 
became more notably "Western European" via humanism, the scientific 
method, and the cult of reason. 7 Thus despite the inadequacy of these des- 
ignations, I will be tracing the historiography of "Western" views of the 
"East" precisely because these are the assumptions that have until very re- 
cently been shared by premodern writers and their modern commentators. 

Chronology is also a problem. We glibly speak of the "modern" and the 
"postmodern," just as freely of "premodern," but it is a matter of conve- 
nience and convention. Historians agree with literary critics that these peri- 
ods do not have an external reality outside of the discourses that create them, 
but there is disagreement as to the implications. Modern theories of socio- 
logical knowledge and textual criticism render the past irrelevant in the sense 
that universal forms are thought to transcend specific historical moments, 
and postmodern theories show that grand historical narratives lack credibil- 
ity as a result of the language game. 8 In effect, it is claimed, history has been 

But some see these new theoretical approaches as a positive development. 
For Lee Patterson, "the recognition that the natural, universal, given, tran- 
scendent, and timeless is historically constituted — and therefore alterable — 
is the great, liberating insight of postmodernism." Patterson suggests that 
the best approach to the past is through ironic history, "which dispenses with 
historiographic grands recits not in order to escape from historicity but to re- 
cover it in its local, concrete form." 9 There could be no better summary of 
the historiography of Western views of Islam since 1945, and yet those who 
have furthered the trend have failed to make explicit the connections be- 
tween their work and postmodern criticism. It seems the fragmentation of 
their efforts is chiefly a function of academic demographics and reflects, if 
anything, a shying away from critical theory. 10 

If the deep past escapes erasure, it is all too often collapsed into the pre- 
sent. Not infrequently studies of colonial and postcolonial attitudes toward 
Islam assume that the roots of modern stereotypes are imbedded in pre- 
modern culture. 11 Many in the anti-Orientalist camp share the sentiments 
of Rana Kabbani: "To write a literature of travel cannot but imply a colonial 
relationship. The claim is that one travels to learn but really, one travels to 
exercise power over land, women, peoples." 12 On the other hand, historians 
sometimes project medieval stereotypes into the future. Norman Daniel 
concluded his authoritative survey, Islam and the West (I960), with a chap- 
ter entitled "The Survival of Medieval Concepts," wherein he argues that 
Western views of Islam were "canonized" in the Middle Ages. 13 

While it is true that some medieval ideas have seeped into the present, 
the process of osmosis was slow and diffuse. It is nearly impossible to trace 
direct lines of transmission, especially outside the realms of intellectual and 


literary history. Attitudes toward Islam were diverse in medieval and Renais- 
sance Europe. Moreover, although modern stereotypes sometimes resemble 
those of the past, similar attitudes can arise for very different reasons. From 
the eleventh through the mid-seventeenth century derisive attacks by West- 
ern authors were born of a nagging inferiority complex vis-a-vis Arab civi- 
lization. In the course of the seventeenth century, however, the Muslim 
states ceased to be a threat politically, and the West began to develop new 
secular views that demystified religion and diminished the threat of Islam as 
a rival ideology. So in the modern period, derisive attitudes arise not from 
an inferiority complex but from a Eurocentric sense of cultural superiority. 

The seventeenth century saw the end of the wars of religion, the ultimate 
recognition of Protestantism by the Catholic Church, the decline of the Ot- 
toman Empire, the emergence of the European state system, the gradual sec- 
ularization of governments, important technological developments in 
shipping and weaponry, the early colonization of the New World, the estab- 
lishment of capitalism, the triumph of the heliocentric system, and a new 
spirit of individualism and rationality. Thus for the purposes of this essay, 
the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries will serve as the period of 
transition from the "premodern" to the "modern." An admittedly arbitrary 
division, it is nonetheless a useful construct for examining a diverse set of 
texts and ideas that share certain cultural assumptions. If nothing else, this 
scheme will facilitate comparative analyses, because all of the writers on 
Western views of Islam in the modern period choose the seventeenth and/or 
the eighteenth century as the starting point for serious inquiry. Thus the me- 
dieval world becomes an exotic and fixed Other constructed by an ongoing 
presentist discourse. 

The seventeenth century was also a linguistic turning point: the word 
"Islam" appeared for the first time in English in 1613 and in French in 1687. 
The use of the proper Arabic term denotes a new consciousness on the part 
of Europeans, although the older, inaccurate, and disrespectful designation 
"Mohammedanism" was replaced only very slowly. The Oxford English 
Dictionary still defines "Allah" as the name of the Deity among "Mo- 
hammedans," an error that may well be the most politically incorrect in the 
history of modern lexicography. Yet something changed. Today in the Gen- 
eral Current Catalogue of Printed Books at the British Library (post- 1975), 
there are 6,448 works with the word "Islam" in the title. Maxime Rodinson 
was also right: we do have a fascination with Islam. 15 This brief history of 
past approaches is an attempt to trace the historiography of that fascination. 

It was not until after World War I that scholars began to take a noticeable 
interest in Western views of Islam, and not until after World War II that the 
field really came into its own, but already in the nineteenth century studies 


began to appear that reflected a nascent curiosity about the impact of Islam 
on the culture of premodern Europe. Spanish, French, and Italian scholars 
were the first to show an interest, especially in the realm of literary studies. 

As early as the 1830s, medieval poetry was analyzed for what it had to say 
about Islam and the life of the Prophet, and by the time Alessandro d'An- 
conna published his still useful "La leggenda di Maometto in Occidente" in 
1889, the tradition had been well established. Although some of these 
early studies were — to put it charitably culturally insensitive — it is notewor- 
thy that there were genuine albeit modest efforts to explain the common 
misconceptions that arose in medieval literature. 17 Scholars read crusading 
literature not only in order to recreate a narrative of events, but also in order 
to examine medieval attitudes toward the Orient. One of the most success- 
ful of these projects was Gaston Paris's investigation of the legend of Salah 
al-Din, which he issued in fits and starts in 1893. It is worth noting that part 
of Paris's work on Salah al-Din was published in the first edition of a new 
journal, the Revue de I'Orient latin; which suggests a growing concern with 
Christian-Muslim relations. 18 By the turn of the century, the Germans had 
made their first contribution to the study of western views of the East, and 
the first book-length study in French appeared not long after. 19 

One of the most enduring pieces of scholarship to emerge from this early 
period was the book by Miguel Asfn y Palacios, which argued that Dante's 
imaginative journey was borrowed directly from the eschatology of Islam. By 
placing side by side passages from the Divine Comedy and various Arabic 
texts, Asfn y Palacios tried to demonstrate that Dante's descriptions of hell, 
paradise, and the Beatific Vision were taken directly from, among others, the 
great Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi (1 165— 1240). 20 He was supported in this argu- 
ment by scholars such as R. A. Nicholson. 21 On the other side, it has been 
argued that there is little evidence of direct transmission and that there are 
plenty of Christian and pre-Christian sources for such journeys: Virgil's 
Aeneid, the apocryphal accounts of St. Paul's supernatural journeys, the voy- 
ages of St. Brendan, etc."' The question has never really been decided to 
everyone's satisfaction. Yet it is interesting from an historiographical per- 
spective that much of the debate has been divided along nationalist lines, 
Italian scholars being particularly reticent to give up the traditional view that 
Dante's work is completely original. 2 ' 1 

Not surprisingly, a number of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century 
works were devoted to the religious aspects of East- West relations. Here too 
new journals were established that reflected a growing if at times prurient in- 
terest in the topic. The most solid of these was the Revue d'Histoire des Reli- 
gions, first issued in the mid-nineteenth century. Articles were published on 
such items as the formulas of abjuration required by the Byzantines of Mus- 
lims wishing to convert to Christianity. 2 


At the other end of the spectrum were journals such as The Moslem 
World, edited by Samuel Zwemer and first published in 1910. Zwemer was 
a missionary with a good command of Arabic and a decent knowledge of the 
Qur'an who worked at the Arabian Mission of the Reformed Church 
throughout Turkey and the Gulf. He was also a journalist and historian who 
was taken seriously, as attested by the series of lectures he gave at the Prince- 
ton Theological Seminary in 1916 called "The Disintegration of Islam," and 
another at the Columbia Theological Seminary in 1935 called "The Origin 
of Religion." According to Zwemer, The Moslem World was a legitimate 
scholarly journal, a quarterly review of current events, literature, and Islamic 
thought, which was simultaneously concerned with the progress of Christ- 
ian missionaries in Muslim lands. 

Zwemer also published his own ostensibly scholarly works. The most well 
known was Raymon Lull, First Missionary to the Moslems (New York, 1902). 
Lull (ca. 1232—1316) was a Majorcan preacher, slightly mad, whose main 
aim was the conversion of the Saracens, and who wrote over 200 works on 
the subject in Latin, Catalan, and Arabic. 25 What is most striking about 
Zwemer's rather extensive biography, apart from the usual polemics, is that 
he exhibits equal portions of Orientalism and presentism. As the title ex- 
plains, Zwemer sees Lull as the archetypal missionary whose sole imperfec- 
tion was his Catholicism. Exhibiting a fanatical Protestant hatred of the 
Middle Ages, Zwemer describes his medieval world in phrases identical to 
those employed by westerners both past and present in their constructions 
of the Orient: "The morality of the Middle Ages presents startling contrasts. 
Over and against each other, and not only in the same land, but often in the 
same individual, we witness sublime faith and degrading superstition, an- 
gelic purity and signs of gross sensuality." 27 Consequently, the author is 
forced to rescue Lull from this derelict civilization by ascribing to him all the 
virtues of an evangelical Protestant and by proclaiming that he "heralded the 
Reformation." 28 According to the book's editor, Zwemer demonstrated, 
among his various sterling qualities, an "absorbing love for the Mo- 
hammedans." Presumably this affection was equally evident in many of his 
other works such as Our Moslem Sisters: a cry of need from lands of darkness 
interpreted by those who hear it (New York, 1907) and Mohammed or Christ. 
An account of the rapid spread of Islam in all parts of the globe, the methods em- 
ployed to obtain proselytes, its immense press, its strongholds, and suggested means 
to be adopted to counteract the evil (London, 1916). 

Although on the whole, as I indicated in my introduction, my sense is 
that connections between premodern and modern prejudices are tenuous, 
here is a clear example of the sort of direct line of thinking that would ap- 
peal to Edward Said, Norman Daniel, and Hichem Djait. Like his contem- 
porary Ranke, Zwemer's project was to describe the past "wie es eigentlich 


gewesen, " but he ends up by defaming Islam as a "gigantic heresy" and re- 
casting Raymund Lull in his own image (notwithstanding the very real sim- 
ilarities in their dogmatism). One can in fact draw a nice genealogy: Peter 
the Venerable — Raymund Lull-Martin Luther — Samuel Zwemer. This is 
not hyperbole. The idea was put forth in 1931 in the pages of the journal 
that Zwemer edited: 

In vain do we search for a somewhat objective account of the religion of the 
false Prophet in the Middle Ages. There is much abuse and vituperation; but 
only a few, such as Raymund Lull or the noble Peter Venerabilis, try to arouse 
Christianity for missionary work among the Moslems. Just the reverse fault is 
made in modern times; the age of Rationalism regards Islam as the type of en- 
lightened, free-thinking religiousness. Between these extremes stands Dr. 
Martin Luther, who penetrates with remarkable sagacity into the religion of 
"the Turks," as far as the means at his disposal allow him, and endeavors to 
gain a just judgment without denying his Christian standpoint. 29 

This passage — which I admit was just too good to pass up — is reminiscent 
of books such as Imposture Instanced in the life of Mahomet (London, 1859) 
by G. Akehurst and life of Muhammad (1830) by Samuel Bush, wherein the 
author confidently predicts the end of both Islam and the papacy in the year 
1866. There was an overlap in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries 
between historical and literary analyses of the Middle Ages that, with all 
their faults, were still more or less intellectually honest attempts to recoup 
the past, and naked polemics, which still seem very, well, "medieval." 

In contrast to this avowedly Christian school of historiography, the less ten- 
dentious positivists — many of them Orientalists in both the good and the bad 
senses — did a far better job of elucidating the past than those in Zwemer's cir- 
cle. The mid-nineteenth century is still too early to look for commentary ex- 
pressly focused upon Western views of Islam, but some of the great historical 
narratives, the grands recits, reveal an awareness of the importance of the sub- 
ject. The French scholar Ernest Renan, who is one of Edward Said's betes 
noires, was nonetheless one of the first to concern himself with the impact on 
the West of Arab thought and philosophy with his Averroes et lAverro'isme 
(1852). Although Said is an unforgiving critic, displaying little of the empathy 
that he demands of those he attacks, it is altogether true that Renan was less 
than charitable towards Semitic peoples and that he is deserving of the atten- 
tion Said devotes to him as one of the founding fathers of modern Oriental- 
ism. 30 But this is especially true of Renan the philologist. As a historian, he was 
bold and innovative. Averroes et FAverroisme is a monumental piece of scholar- 
ship, all the more so because it was ahead of its time in the sense that histori- 
ans failed to follow his lead until the years between the two World Wars. 31 


Other nineteenth-century Orientalists exhibited a similar mix of ques- 
tionable biases, good research habits, and occasionally prescient insights. In 
his great narrative, Histoire des Mussulmans dEspagne (1861), Reinhart Dozy 
was at times remarkably sensitive to the contours of the Christian communi- 
ties living in early medieval Spain. In the spring of 851, a monk named Isaac 
came down from the hills around Cordoba, walked into town, approached a 
Muslim qadi (judge), publicly denounced Muhammad, proclaimed the di- 
vinity of Christ, and was shortly thereafter beheaded for blasphemy. 32 In the 
next 10 years nearly 50 more Christians from Cordoba rebelled against their 
Muslim overlords by getting themselves killed. Known to us through the ac- 
count written by Eulogius, the bishop of Toledo, who himself died a martyr 
in 859, and through Eulogius's biography, written by Paul Alvarus, the his- 
tory of the martyrs of Cordoba can serve as an interesting litmus test for gaug- 
ing the approaches of scholars toward the medieval world. 33 

On the one hand, it is true, as Said points out, that Dozy displayed an 
"impressive antipathy" to Arabs and Islam. 3 He characterizes local leaders 
as luxury-loving and lascivious, and he sympathizes with Alvarus's famous 
lament that talented young Christians were neglecting their Latin in order 
to perfect their Arabic. 35 On the other hand, parts of his analysis are thor- 
oughly modern and still generally accepted. Among other things, for in- 
stance, Dozy condemns Eulogius for his fanaticism and for reporting 
scurrilous stories about the Prophet when he had a fine command of Arabic 
and the proper sources at his disposal. 3 

There were other important grands recits that appeared before the out- 
break of the Great War. At the same time Dozy was preparing his narrative 
of the Muslims in Spain, M. Amari was writing his Storia dei Musulmani di 
Sicilia, 3 vols., (Florence, 1854—1868). In Kulturgeschichte der Kreuzzuges 
(Berlin, 1883), H. Prutz saw the crusades as the catalyst for a great deal of 
salubrious cultural diffusion, bringing to the West the best of Eastern riches 
and ideas. This is exactly the type of argument made by politically correct 
intellectuals today. P. O. Keicher provided a much more sober account than 
Reverend Zwemer of the career of Raymund Lull in Raymundus Lullus und 
Seine Stellung zur Arabischen Philosophie (Munster, 1909). And although 
some important American contributions began to appear for the first time, 37 
as in so many things, it was not until after the war that the French, British, 
and Italian scholars, who continued to dominate the field, took any notice 
of the work being done across the Atlantic. 

In the 1920s and 1930s, graduate programs in medieval studies contin- 
ued to expand, and new journals were established such as Studia Islamica, Al- 
Andalus, and Revue des Etudes Islamiques. A new seriousness of purpose 
emerged, and most significant of all, so did a new measure of tolerance and 
a desire for mutual understanding. Richard Southern judged that "it was not 


until the years between the two World Wars that a serious effort was made 
to understand the contributions of Islam to the development of Western 
thought, and the effect on Western society of the neighborhood of Islam." 38 
Two works, in particular, stand out during this period. Both studies were in 
English. Both considered Western attitudes toward the Turks. 

In The Crescent and the Rose, Islam and England during the Renaissance 
(Oxford, 1937), Samuel C. Chew attempted for the first time a compre- 
hensive survey of British views as revealed in literature, drama, travelers' re- 
ports, and the lives of adventurers such as Sir Anthony Shelley — a courtier, 
soldier, and con man whose escapades took him from the Americas to Per- 
sia. 39 It is an extremely thorough and professional survey albeit given over 
more to exhaustive detailed descriptions than profound analysis. Chew por- 
trays Renaissance Englishmen as enormously inquisitive, and he sees a grad- 
ual shift from religious to secular concerns, which leads to a less hysterical 
appraisal of the East. True, he lets slip the occasional stereotype. When com- 
menting on the predicament of a seventeenth-century traveler who, when 
visiting Cairo, found it necessary to anchor his boat in the middle of the 
Nile so as not to be robbed, Chew opines that little has changed. 

On the whole, however, his approach is reasonably balanced. He shows 
sympathy and criticism toward Christians and Muslims alike; he displays a 
healthy empathy toward the limitations of the Renaissance mind; and he is 
one of the first to notice the varied nature of past attitudes — an admission 
absent from other important studies such as those by Southern himself and 
Norman Daniel, who try to account for everything by forcing viewpoints 
into preestablished categories. 

Chew's analysis was a departure in another way as well. Because he was in- 
terested in literature, theater, and travel — as opposed to anti-Muslim 
polemics — he was able to distinguish between elite and popular attitudes, 
which he does by looking at things like festivals alia Turchesa and the por- 
trayal of Muslims on the London stage. Thus in his use of a variety of 
sources and his focus on the attitudes of different people from different 
classes, his study is an important advance that echoes contemporary histori- 
ographical developments among the Marxists and Annalists on the continent. 

An equally innovative and important work is The Turk in French History, 
Thought and Literature (1520—1660) (Paris, 1941) by Clarence Dana Rouillard. 
Like Chew, Rouillard is interested in the points of contact between the French 
and the Turks and the ways in which these interactions were represented in 
French literature, especially travel literature. "My predominant aim," he ex- 
plains, "is to see the Turk through the eyes of a sixteenth or seventeenth cen- 
tury Frenchman." He, too, uncovers a wide variety of attitudes — both elite and 
popular — but comments that for most Frenchmen, the Turk was a symbol of 
cruelty and lasciviousness. From a historiographical perspective, one of the 


most interesting aspects of this work is the author's express desire for greater 
mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims. Taking care to high- 
light historical instances of tolerance, he tries to apologize for French racism by 
providing counterexamples and putting a positive spin on the past: "While 
there remains all through the period ... a varying residue of medieval Christ- 
ian hatred and blind prejudice against the Turks, it is now generally lifted from 
the Turks as men and confined to their religious beliefs." Presumably this was 
reason for hope. 

Be that as it may, Rouillard's somewhat forced optimism signals what will 
eventually become a major motif. The expression of such hope rises dra- 
matically after World War II, reaches its peak during the Cold War, and con- 
tinues to be the dominant attitude among those writing about Western 
views of Islam. 

Thus serious efforts were being made to understand Islamic culture, and 
there is certainly value in listing the positive attributes that westerners saw 
in the Turks, who at various times were praised for their intelligence, edu- 
cation, manners, cleanliness, physical strength, honesty, honor, humanity, 
and tolerance, and whose cities were deemed marvels because of their civil 
and military order, administration of justice, sanitation, and arts. Schol- 
arly works, however, are not the place to remark that all religions are basi- 
cally the same, and Rouillard's insistence on the above points makes one 
suspicious when he asserts that French attitudes were ever improving. Even- 
tually, of course, he goes too far, crowning Voltaire, the author of that scur- 
rilous play Mahomet, as the "champion of tolerance." In all fairness to 
Voltaire, his opinions vacillated, and he sometimes characterized the 
Prophet as a leader and a profound thinker; and in all fairness to Rouillard, 
on the whole, his book is extremely learned and a marked improvement 
upon the nineteenth-century Orientalist polemics that seem to linger even 
today. Still, a writer must be cautious not to refashion the past in his ar- 
dent desire to shape the future. 

Elsewhere in Europe, other attempts were made at comprehensive sur- 
veys. Richard Southern pointed to G. Thery, Tolede Grande Ville de la Re- 
naissance Medievale, Point de juction entre les cultures musulmane et chretien 
(Oman, 1944) and Darfo Rodriguez Cabanelas,/z/<272 de Segovia y elproblema 
islamico (1952) as seminal texts. The important volume by J. Fuck should 
also be mentioned, Die Arabischen Studien in Europe vom 12, bis in dem An- 
fang des 19 Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1944), which follows up on the work of 
Prutz by tracing the cultural impact of East on West. Although this type 
of history has been less evident in Germany than elsewhere, it is perhaps fit- 
ting that a country noted for the high quality of its Arabists should likewise 
produce the first study of Arab attitudes toward the West: Islam und Chris- 
tentum im Mittelalter, Beitrage zur Geschichte der muslimischen Polemik gegen 


das Christentum in arabischer Sprache (Breslau, 1930), by E. Fritsch. Still 
now at the end of the twentieth century, quality research concerning East- 
ern views of Europe is desperately needed. 

The groundbreaking research of Marie-Therese d'Alverny was arguably 
the most influential of this entire period. 50 Much of what the medieval West 
knew of Islam came from various translations of the Qur'an and other Ara- 
bic texts located in the Toledan-Cluniac corpus, which d'Alverny thoroughly 
examined in an article that in some ways is still unsurpassed and that became 
the starting point for all subsequent analyses. 51 

The Italians made important contributions in these years as well. Ugo 
Monneret de Villard generated renewed interest in the subject with the 
publication of Lo studio dell' Islam in Europa nel XII secola, Studi e Testi, 110 
(Vatican, 1944). This short book, which includes an excellent bibliography 
of French, German, English, and Italian works, begins with the author's at- 
tempt to understand the various social and religious forces that produced 
such a man as Ricoldo da Monte Croce, who wrote a book on Islam at the 
beginning of the fourteenth century after having spent many years in Bagh- 
dad. On the whole, more than anything else, Monneret de Villard was in- 
terested in the progress of ideas. He begins with Peter the Venerable, whose 
self-justification he takes at face value, describing Peter as engaged in a cru- 
sade of the mind, attacking Islam in theory. This, he notes, is a step in the 
right direction compared to the attitudes of men like Guibert of Nogent 
(1054-1124) and Hildebertus de Lavardin (1055?— 1 133), whose implaca- 
ble hostility to Islam precluded any intellectual rapprochement whatso- 
ever. 52 Monneret de Villard is himself a "step in the right direction," both 
in the sense that his attempts to understand cultural relations of the past are 
linked to nothing more obdurate than a benign desire to improve cross- 
cultural understanding in the modern world, and in the sense that he is as 
sympathetic toward the medieval mind as he is toward Islam. Ultimately he 
concludes, somewhat hopefully, that a backlash against the crusades had set 
in by the thirteenth century and that European intellectuals had come a 
long way in the direction of understanding Islam as a religion and not just 
"a mere insolence." 

This search for the roots of tolerance is a trend in Italian historiography 
that continued after the war. In I'Islamismo e la Cultura Europea (Florence, 
1956), a prosaic survey of attitudes toward Islam from the seventh to sev- 
enteenth century, Aldobrandino Malvezzi analyzed the causes of misunder- 
standing, arguing that errors about Islam have grave consequences not only 
because they retard the general progress of Italian culture, but also because 
the methods used so far to counter Islam seem to have had the opposite ef- 
fect. He comments, for example, that Europeans have always exhibited the 
tendency to judge Islam by Catholic criteria. He corrects his readers by ex- 


plaining that Islam is not materialistic; instead, it is trying to solve the same 
problems as Christianity and we ought not to criticize its methods just be- 
cause they are different. Like many scholars in the following years, Malvezzi 
openly worries that lack of empathy has been a major obstacle in the spiri- 
tual, intellectual, and political rapport between Europe and the Muslim 
world. He calls for future generations to repair these misunderstandings in 
the spirit of peace, tolerance, and comprehension, a pragmatic approach 
that fully anticipates Vatican II. 54 

It was in these same decades that interest in the subject was generated 
among North American scholars by Dana Carleton Munro, who examined 
"The Western Attitude Toward Islam During the Period of the Crusades" in 
his presidential address at the sixth annual meeting of the Medieval Acad- 
emy of America in 1931. 55 Munro's essay is primarily descriptive. Like Mon- 
neret de Villard, he takes Peter the Venerable at his word, adding that Peter 
was in large part responsible for propagating the false beliefs about Islam 
that were held to so tenaciously in the following centuries. And like Richard 
Southern, for whom this piece is a clear antecedent, Munro sees a pattern of 
changing attitudes in the High Middle Ages from ignorance to hatred to a 
"decline in hatred." He too remarks upon the wide variety of Western atti- 
tudes and notes the juxtaposition of accurate information and false ideas 
about Islam. 

Deliberate misrepresentation on the part of medieval writers who had ac- 
cess to accurate information has been an enduring issue in the historiogra- 
phy of premodern encounters between Europe and Islam. Not surprisingly, 
more than a little anti-Catholic venom bleeds through some of the analyses. 
At the turn of the century, for example, S. P. Scott was scornful in his de- 
scription of the medieval Spanish clergy: "Their opinions on this subject 
they obtained from fanatical monks as ignorant as, and even more bigoted 
than, themselves. The sage conclusion that they arrived at from these re- 
searches was that the doctrines of the most uncompromising of monotheists 
and image-breakers were pagan idolatries." 5 By comparison, Munro re- 
mains detached. At one point in his narrative he recalls the work of Arnold 
of Liibeck, who knowingly falsified an account by Burchard of Strasbourg, 
an envoy sent by Frederick Barbarossa to the court of Salah al-Din. Upon his 
return, Burchard provided a remarkably accurate picture of Islam noting, 
among other things, Muslim attitudes toward Christ and the Virgin Mary, 
and explaining the Muslim belief that God was the Creator of all things and 
Muhammad was his most Holy Prophet. Yet in spite of quoting Burchard's 
account in detail, Arnold has Salah al-Din swear "by virtue of my god, Mo- 
hammed." 57 The president of the MAA recalls the story without comment. 

But shortly thereafter, Speculum did in fact publish an otherwise solid ar- 
ticle that was nearly as vehement as Scott's book. In his exploration of the 


chansons de geste, a Canadian scholar, C. Meredith Jones, concluded that 
there was no better explanation for these misrepresentations than flagrant 
fanaticism. 58 To be sure, Jones makes some interesting and original observa- 
tions. Comparing the chansons de geste with chronicles and various reli- 
gious tracts, he is perhaps the first to suggest that "a traditional type of 
'Saracen' was invented and reproduced endlessly," that Western attitudes 
flowed more from literary sources than from actual contact with Muslims, 
and that stories about Muhammad were fabulous because "scholars sought 
their sources of information in popular opinions." 59 He characterizes Peter 
the Venerable as a propagandist and zealot, and in general shows far greater 
sympathy for the medieval Muslim than he does for the European. For that 
matter, he displays contempt for medieval Christians in a fashion that can 
only be called Gibbonesque: 

The invention of such hate-inspired episodes is one more reflection of the in- 
abilities of the poets to devise anything really new. The medieval Christian is 
constantly offering bribes to his God. In song and in history he is always 
threatening him with the consequences of failure to grant prayers; he ravages 
his churches in order to vent his anger, even occasionally abuses God, and de- 
liberately takes revenge on him. 

Citing Stanley Lane- Poole, Jones argues that in reality the Saracens were 
more pious and trustworthy than their western counterparts, of whom he 
writes: "It never occurred to these medieval minds that the articles of belief 
might have in themselves a force sufficiently compelling to convince the hea- 
then." In the end, he concludes that the poems were willful and malicious 
misrepresentations, a summary that does not entirely fit with his observa- 
tions about the way in which ideas were transmitted, but that reveals his de- 
sire to castigate and correct the Christians. 

Jones's approach is symptomatic of a number of (predominantly Protes- 
tant) writers who tend to associate Catholicism with a "medieval" world 
view. Beyond this, however, Jones exhibits a lack of empathy for medieval 
people that likewise characterizes a giant in this field: Norman Daniel. 
And finally, it is not too much of a stretch to interpret Jones's analysis as crit- 
icism of European and American policy toward communism. The author ac- 
cepts the truth of the Christian (read liberal democratic) position, but rejects 
the use of force in favor of reasoned dialogue that will surely come out to the 
advantage of the West. This too foreshadows Daniel and Southern. 

As the demand for oil increased in the fifties and sixties so too did inter- 
est in the Muslim world. Missionaries and academics alike encountered Islam 
with increasing frequency as the superpowers played out their agendas in the 
postcolonial world. And it is to these years that those interested in Western 


views of Islam owe the production of two works which in their comprehen- 
siveness have yet to be surpassed: Norman Daniel's Islam and the West: The 
Making of an Image (Edinburgh, I960) and Richard Southern's Western Views 
of Islam in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1962). 

Norman Daniel was nothing if not thorough. Today those approaching 
the topic for the first time must begin with Islam and the West and special- 
ists must still take it into account. Daniel's books are mines of detail about 
the medieval sources and his bibliographies are indispensable. What higher 
praise could one hope for than Southern's acknowledgment that without 
Daniel to guide him he would not have attempted to explore the daunting 
subject in the first place? And Edward Said would have been hard put to 
introduce Orientalism without the assistance of someone whose opinion of 
European arrogance so neatly matches his own. If one disregards Said's more 
sophisticated theoretical framework, then it's not difficult to imagine Islam 
and the West and Orientalism as the first and third in a series eagerly await- 
ing the publication of a second volume, devoted to a thorough flogging of 
European intellectuals from the Renaissance to the French Revolution. 

Like Edward Said, Norman Daniel sees the Western canon of attitudes 
toward Islam as having been formed in the Middle Ages and transmitted un- 
changed into the modern world. The irony is that Daniel himself is some- 
thing of a modern-day Ricoldo da Monte Croce, who compares the 
comportment of his countrymen unfavorably to the manners and customs 
of the Muslims he knew so well during his years in Cairo. (Ricoldo's experi- 
ences had been in Baghdad.) And like Ricoldo, Daniel was a committed 
Catholic whose desire to improve Western understanding was not wholly 
disconnected from his wish to better inform Muslims about their misun- 
derstanding of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. 

A few years before the publication of his opus magnus, Daniel gave a lec- 
ture to the Newman Association Graduate Division of the University 
Catholic Federation of Great Britain. Also on the panel was R. C. Zaehner, 
Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford. Together 
they addressed the relations between Islam and Christianity past and pre- 
sent, in an effort to show that if Christians better understood the real 
earnestness and spirituality of Islam, then they could better explain to Mus- 
lims the earnestness, spirituality, and truth of Christianity. There was noth- 
ing subtle about it. 

"It seems unlikely," Zaehner began, "that a merciful and rational God 
should confine all revelation of himself to a small Semitic tribe, leaving 
the rest of the world in darkness." Then, having so cleverly demon- 
strated the historical parity of the two monotheistic traditions, he estab- 
lishes his own tolerance by declaring that Muhammad's sincerity never 
should have been called into question. Instead we must start with "the as- 


sumption that Mohammed was what he claimed to be . . . for unless this 
claim is in some degree conceded, there can be no hope of reaching any 
understanding with Muslims, anymore than Muslims can hope to under- 
stand us unless they accept the divinity of Christ." The central aim of 
the talk was to show that what the Quran says about Christ is correct and 
that Muslim thinkers have misinterpreted it, a position remarkably simi- 
lar to that of certain medieval writers such as John of Segovia. In his con- 
clusion, Zaehner commented that "even if Islam is a false religion, there 
is enough of Christian truth in the Koran for us to be sure that God's 
providence in permitting the rise of Islam against Christianity is, even to 
our finite understanding, not wholly incomprehensible." 

I have quoted his fellow panelist at length neither to convict Daniel of 
guilt by association nor to provide supporting evidence for his thesis about 
the continued vitality of medieval attitudes in the modern world; simply, I 
wish to put into perspective Daniel's genuine but finite empathy with Islam 
and his seemingly unmitigated criticism of the European mind. Daniel was 
a devout Catholic with long experience in the Muslim world. He was fasci- 
nated by Islam and determined to work out for himself an intellectual 
framework in which he could comfortably interact with his Muslim neigh- 
bors and colleagues, while at the same time protecting his own faith and 
maintaining his intellectual standing amongst the Dominicans with whom 
he worked. He despised those expatriates who closed themselves off from the 
Islamic culture that surrounded them even more than he loathed those back 
home who failed to engage themselves with Islam in any way; and he de- 
voted his scholarship to understanding the medieval Christian encounter 
with Islam in order to trace the development of modern attitudes, under- 
stand the mechanism by which prejudices were formed, castigate the 
Catholic Church and European society for its shortsightedness and narrow- 
mindedness, and chart a new path for coping with the existence of a com- 
peting monotheism. 

Daniel's paper to the Newman Association was far more tolerant than Za- 
ehner's, and in terms of his appraisal of the medieval mind, it was more tol- 
erant than the books he wrote later. His description of Islam is fair, and must 
have been enlightening if not a little unnerving to those assembled for the 
lecture. He praises the work of Montgomery Watt for its balanced approach, 
defends the Prophet against morals charges and allegations of hypocrisy, ex- 
plains the tenets of Islam, then declares his belief in the Trinity and argues a 
la Zaehner that Muslims have misunderstood Jesus because they deny his di- 
vinity. "The central problem," he declared, "is how to treat truth that is con- 
fused with error." In the mid-twentieth century theses intellectuals had 
moved away from a frontal attack on Islamic doctrine and had come to ac- 
cept its partial truths — why would God have revealed his wisdom to a small 


Semitic tribe if it contained no truth whatsoever? — and wished to further 
educate Muslims in order to bring them completely into the light. 

Daniel's feelings toward his fellow Europeans are unambiguous. In Eu- 
rope, "where Muslims do not penetrate," people may shut their minds to 
Islam, "but for Catholics whose lives take them among or into touch with 
Islamic peoples such an attitude . . . would not begin to satisfy the re- 
quirements of fruitful intercourse." 70 (Ironically these words remind me of 
Edward Said's cynical and unwarranted attack on Bernard Lewis for the al- 
leged sexual imagery in his language, and it is telling that the author of 
Orientalism chose not to deconstruct Daniel in a similar fashion.) 71 Daniel 
adds that Christians living in Muslim countries must decide what their re- 
lations with Muslims are going to be: 

The first alternative is one adopted by many Occidentals: to have no relations 
at all, to cut themselves off and live exclusively in the society of their compa- 
triots. This is parochial, unrealistic, uncharitable, a childish hiding away from 
the world. The next alternative is to have friendly worldly relations, but to ex- 
clude serious matters; that is what most people do, but it does not solve any 
important problem. Finally, it is possible to begin a process of mutual infor- 
mation between Christians and Muslims, which above all things is what is 
needed. It is essential to find some means of genuine communication. From 
a religious point of view, we cannot withhold Christ; it will be a terrible re- 
sponsibility to answer for, if we so maintain our own faith as to exclude oth- 
ers from it; insist on giving it a colour gratifying to ourselves, and so present 
it as to blind others to the truth. 72 

Daniel's contempt for the medieval mind simultaneously reveals the pa- 
tronizing Orientalist stereotypes that lurk just below the surface of his en- 
lightened posturing: "(In the nineteenth century) awareness of the fatalism 
of the East became more marked than it had been in the Middle Ages; it may 
be that the medievals like Orientals of all periods were more resigned them- 
selves to the will of God, and therefore noticed it less." 73 Praising the work 
of Gardet, Massignon, and Nicholson, he particularly likes, of all people, K. 
Cragg, then editor of The Moslem World, and he leaves no doubt as to the 
true value of gaining a better understanding of Islam: 

We must learn about Islam from Muslims, and learn dispassionately . . . 
putting ourselves as much as we can outside our own traditions. Christians 
may expect in return the opportunity to teach. If we are to learn what Mus- 
lims have to say about themselves, we may impart what we have to say about 
ourselves. ... It is accepted that the truth held by non-Catholics, which we all 
call Catholic truths, since all truth is Catholic, are sometimes held more 
firmly than we hold them ourselves. I think that Muslims in their lives gen- 


erally submit with reverence to Providence better than we do, and are more 
aware of God's government in everyday things. We must not take such dis- 
coveries as this with patronizing approval, but with humility. We have to ask 
why, with the benefits of the whole truth and sacraments of grace, we are still 
inferior in observance. . . . Those who are truly confident that they have the 
truth need not fear the ultimate result of imparting it. Conversion may not 
follow, but it cannot possibly precede, the day when prejudice and hatred on 
both sides have been dispelled. 

The author's words, which he makes no attempt to disavow in later 
books, speak for themselves and require no further explication on my part. 
I would like to add, however, that it is precisely Daniel's religious enthusi- 
asm that is the source of his deep respect for Islam. The comment that Said 
made about Massignon is entirely apropos: "He reconstructed and defended 
Islam against Europe on the one hand and against its own orthodoxy on the 
other. This intervention — for it was that — into the Orient as animator and 
champion symbolized his own acceptance of the Orient's difference, as well 
as his efforts to change it into what he wanted." 

Daniel's erudition is unassailable. His thorough familiarity with the 
sources is a monument to scholarship — something that also speaks for itself. 
But the context is not there. He variously describes the people he calls "me- 
dievals" as brutal, violent, aggressive, vulgar, intolerant, xenophobic, igno- 
rant, narrow-minded, and culturally arrogant. 77 And by and large he's 
speaking of the intellectuals! Of course Daniel's assessment is not altogether 
untrue, but at times he expects of his "medievals" enlightened attitudes that 
one would be hard-pressed to find exhibited in any overwhelming fashion 
amongst many Christians today. 78 Moreover, it is inaccurate to suggest that 
all medieval Europeans lacked the tolerance and humanity that Daniel finds 
so in evidence in the Arab world. 79 Even his disclaimers — which are few and 
far between — are rounded off by generalizations. For the most part he insists 
that Western attitudes form a "canon" or "integrated view" that has been 
transmitted intact to the modern world. 80 

To take one example, seeing nothing but irrational fanaticism, Daniel 
makes no attempt to understand the ninth-century martyrs of Cordova from 
their perspective. 81 Their implacable "hatred for Islam," he argues, led to a 
"total rejection of the Arab world." The whole martyrs' movement was a "sus- 
tained effort to break the few links that existed between the two religions." 
The martyr's political theory maintained that "Christianity cannot exist side 
by side with any other religion; and the martyrs practiced the theory with a 
logic untempered by common sense." And it was this theory that "prefig- 
ured . . . the attitude of Europeans, and especially of the more educated, to- 
wards Islam, throughout the Middle Ages . . . and into the present century." 82 


More than anything else, the martyrs simply did not want to know about 
Islam, which is unforgivable in the eyes of this ever-curious scholar. 83 Again 
and again he accuses the Europeans of being "indifferent." Daniel has the 
tendency to argue with medieval intellectuals as if they were sitting across 
the table from him; one can almost hear him haranguing some hapless ex- 
patriate at a dinner party. Westerners do not care about Islam, they know 
nothing, they make no effort to learn. In short, Daniel was "politically cor- 
rect" before the coining of the term. Yet while his desire for what we now 
call "multiculturalism" is laudable, his will to change the world leads him to 
associate intolerable medieval ignorance and indifference with intolerable 
modern ignorance and indifference. 8 For that matter, in the introduction to 
The Arabs and Medieval Europe, he makes the point that periodization is ar- 
bitrary and that the continuity of European history is paramount: "If we 
have to choose a date to end the western European Middle Age, we might 
do worse than take 1939. " 85 And elsewhere: "We need to keep in mind how 
medieval Christendom argued, because it has always been and still is part of 
the make-up of every Western mind brought to bear upon this subject." 

Daniel is anti-Freudian and anti-Marxist and parodies what he calls 
"scientific-atheist" points of view. "In actual fact," he writes, "the ortho- 
dox Communist attitude resembles not only that of the modern imperi- 
alist but also that of the medieval 'feudalist.'" 87 Some socialists have 
lashed back. "To a historian like Norman Daniel," wrote Maxime Rodin- 
son, "only a mind tainted by medievalism or imperialism could criticize 
the moral attitudes of the Prophet, and he accuses of being the same sort 
of thing, any exposition that uses the normal mechanisms of human his- 
tory to explain Islam and its characteristics. Understanding has given way 
to apologetics." 88 

In his last major work, Daniel turned his attention to the chansons de geste 
in an effort to understand popular views of Islam. 89 The change in tone is 
striking. From a hard-hearted, rather elitist position, he moves to an extremely 
sympathetic view of the medieval European. If it were not for the thorough- 
ness of his research and the profound familiarity with the sources, one would 
think that this study was written by a different man. The harangues disappear. 
So does the insistence that European attitudes were homogenous. There is an 
acute awareness of the differences between the intellectuals and the common 
folk, and a distinction is made between the sources themselves and the ways 
in which people actually thought and acted. His judgment of Peter the Ven- 
erable, for example, softens considerably. In the space of 25 years Peter went 
from being smug, excessively theoretical, unrealistic, careless in his scholarship, 
and somewhat less than intellectually honest to someone whose "sensitivity 
and rare awareness of cultural differences contrasts with his failure, so far as we 
know, to turn his moving and in many ways well-judged appeal to Muslims 


into Arabic." Still, in both cases Peter is the honorable exception. This alone 
says a lot about the shift in Daniel's view. 90 

In his later work Daniel shows himself to be sensitive to the medieval 
mind in a way that C. Meredith Jones failed to transcend. He abandons the 
term "medievals," cautions against being patronizing, and calls for a "willing 
suspension of unbelief" when reading the chansons, adding: "When the 
poet shows a happy indifference to facts, we can take pleasure from it only 
by being happy and indifferent too." 91 Rarely does one see such a remark- 
able change in a scholar's feelings towards his subject matter. Here Daniel ar- 
gues, correctly, that Jones was wrong to see fanaticism everywhere, that yes, 
the poets did know the Saracens, that there was a notable discrepancy be- 
tween their realities and the way that they are depicted in the chansons, but 
that this should not be seen as a form of propaganda or willful distortion; 
rather, this is fiction, a joke, a caricature, and should be understood as 
such. 92 In other words, "The ignorance of the poem tells us nothing about 
the knowledge of the poet." 9 ' 1 Although there is no way of knowing what the 
theologians thought about this genre of "historical fiction," it is certain that 
the poems do not reflect the official Christian theological and polemic atti- 
tude to Arabs and Muslims. "The songs are not Crusade propaganda, as I 
once believed, but they are good propaganda for a life of daring and adven- 
ture." True to form, Daniel still criticizes the theologians, but as with Peter 
the Venerable, he softens considerably, going so far as to say that some of 
them were actually tolerant souls. 95 

Whereas Daniel noted the similarities between Eastern and Western reli- 
gious culture, Richard Southern was more attuned to the differences, char- 
acterizing Christendom and Islam as societies that were "extraordinarily 
unlike from almost every point of view." Southern had high regard for 
Daniel's scholarship, but he still felt that an additional overview would be 
useful, more than anything else, in order to summarize the work that had 
been done between 1945 and 1961, which is when he delivered his set of 
lectures on the subject at Harvard. In Southern's opinion, the topic had for 
all intents and purposes lain dormant during the 75 years following the pub- 
lication of Ernest Renan's Averroes et I'Averro'isme (1852), which he greatly 
admired. As mentioned above, Edward Said reserved a special place in his 
inferno for Mr. Renan, 97 but Southern's enthusiasm reflects his own decid- 
edly positivist view of the problem, reflected in his division of Western atti- 
tudes into three progressive stages: the Age of Ignorance (to the mid-twelfth 
century), the Century of Reason and Hope (to the late thirteenth century), 
and the Moment of Vision (to the mid-fifteenth century). His observation 
that one cannot expect to find in the Middle Ages "that spirit of detached 
and academic or humane inquiry which has characterized much of the in- 
quiry about Islam of the last hundred years" was not meant to be ironic. 98 


The strength of Southern's account is that he is sensitive to the nuances 
of medieval culture. So, for example, he treats the martyrs of Cordova with 
clarity and tolerance: 

If they saw and understood little of what went on round them, and if they knew 
nothing of Islam as a religion, it was because they wished to know nothing. The 
situation of an oppressed and unpopular minority within a minority is not a 
suitable one for scientific inquiry into the true position of the oppressor." 

Southern was not nearly so passionate on the subject as Daniel; rather, he 
did his best to maintain the detached spirit of inquiry that he admired in 

The weakness of this approach is that Southern's vision of the past is 
overly contingent upon his concerns for the future. 100 Southern calls the ex- 
istence of Islam "the most far-reaching problem in medieval Christendom," 
in the same way the existence of communism was for him the most far- 
reaching problem in the modern West, a comparison he makes explicitly: 
"The greatest practical problem of our time is the problem of the juxtaposi- 
tion of incompatible and largely hostile systems of thought, morals, and be- 
liefs embodied in political powers of impressive, not to say awe-inspiring, 
size." 101 He worries about demagogues and praises responsible thought, fear- 
ing that the ignorance of popular opinion will manifest itself among the po- 
litical intelligentsia the way it did in Pope Innocent Ill's crusade 
sermons — and in the years leading up to World War II. 102 The realization in 
the 1940s and 1950s that communism would not be defeated, that in fact 
Marxism was on the march throughout the Third World, and that even at 
home intellectuals were speaking the language of the left, was mirrored in 
Southern's late thirteenth century by the collapse of the crusades, the aware- 
ness that the Mongols were converting to Islam, and the hearty reception in 
Christendom of the thought of Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), and Ibn 
Rushd (Averroes). 103 Ultimately it is best to renounce violence, to become 
reconciled to the existence of a hostile system, and to try to ameliorate the 
tensions with intelligence and dialogue, which is how John of Segovia and 
Nicholas of Cusa reacted in the mid- fifteenth century when they renounced 
the crusades and called for critical editions of the Qur'an as a means to bet- 
ter understand and more effectively engage the enemy. 10 

In the thirteenth century, Roger Bacon came to the conclusion that once 
the proper arguments against Islam had been formulated it would, in South- 
ern's words, "wither away." 10 

John of Segovia saw that this was mistaken. . . . He was, I think. The first 
man of peace to grasp that missions to convert Islam were doomed to fail- 


ure. The first problem to be faced was therefore the problem of a new kind 
of communication. The main purpose of his letters was to suggest a new 
approach. To describe this he used an old word in a new form, and with a 
new sense. It is a word which has come in our own day to be heavy with 
meaning — the word "conference" or, as John of Segovia accurately, if 
pedantically, put it, contraferentia} 06 

Southern goes on to remark that the word contraferentia "was probably 
coined by John of Segovia to distinguish the projected meeting of hostile 
parties from the friendly," adding that "he saw the conference as an instru- 
ment with a political as well as a strictly religious function, and in words 
which will strike a chord in modern breasts he exclaimed that even if it were 
to last ten years it would be less expensive and less damaging than war." 107 
This was Southern's moment of vision. One need only substitute the word 
detente for contraferentia to complete the image. 

Interest in Western views of Islam has continued to grow since Daniel 
and Southern published their surveys, but the results, to a large extent, have 
been conference papers, articles, and monographs. A new overview is 
needed — one that takes into account the theoretical positions that have 
emerged in the last 25 years; but the task is daunting — especially because the 
new theoretical considerations themselves mitigate against the publication of 
all-inclusive surveys. Studies of premodern Europe in general have become 
increasingly fragmented since the early 1960s. One reason is that the decline 
of Marxism, the end of the Cold War, and the adoption of mixed econom- 
ics in the West has decreased the tendency of scholars to ask the big why 
questions. 108 Yet following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is some 
evidence that this trend is reversing itself precisely in the realm of East- West 
relations. It remains to be seen whether this generation of scholars will be 
able to avoid getting caught up, consciously or unconsciously, in overarch- 
ing ideological frameworks. 

The first major studies after Southern's were concerned not with medieval 
views of Islam but with the Renaissance image of the Turk. The termino- 
logical shift alone — from "Saracen" to "Turk" and "Moor" — recalls the 
changing outlook of western Europeans and the changing geopolitical shape 
of the Mediterranean world. 109 Whereas most studies of medieval attitudes 
depend upon clerical polemics and troubadour poetry, and are centered in 
southwestern Europe at a time when Europe itself was only partially Chris- 
tianized and fighting crusades inside and out, studies of Renaissance atti- 
tudes have more sources to draw upon and sweep across the whole of Europe 
at a time when the threat of Islam was as much political as it was religious. 

As noted earlier, this path was first lit in the 1930s and 1940s by Samuel 
C. Chew and Clarence Dana Rouillard, who examined the image of the 


Turk in English and French literature respectively. Spanish literature, drama, 
and poetry was covered, in turn, by Albert Mas, whose massive study has yet 
to be superseded. 110 Mas found that Turkish themes were most prevalent in 
Spanish literature in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that is, 
after the battle of Lepanto (1572). Before then they appeared — much like 
the Saracens in the chansons de geste — as stock characters whose inevitable 
defeat was meant to highlight the bravery of the Christians and the glory of 
their rulers; in other words, anti-Turkish tendencies were picked up from 
medieval literature and placed in the present in the same way that, accord- 
ing to some writers, medieval anti-Muslim themes are still being represented 
in the Western media and in modern popular culture. 

On the whole, Mas provides an extremely evenhanded and dispassionate 
analysis. True, the author holds a special place for Cervantes, whom he 
praises for at least trying to understand Islam, and for being able to make a 
distinction between religion and the people who practiced it, 111 but it would 
be churlish not to forgive him a passing remark in what is otherwise a no- 
tably balanced account. Only in his conclusion does he momentarily step 
away from the material to observe, perhaps a bit defensively, that given the 
continued existence of fanaticism in the present age, it is all the more im- 
pressive that the Renaissance produced a few generous spirits who tried to 
better serve humanity by moving beyond racial and religious barriers. 112 
Such sentiments, proclaimed far more openly, would become the norm for 
the next generation. Mas was writing at a time when historians and literary 
critics were still in some cases clinging to the old ideal of objectivity that, de- 
spite being attacked from all sides, continued to survive for another decade 
until it was at long last laid to rest in its postmodern winding sheets. 

Alongside Mass work, a second study appeared, written by Robert 
Schwoebel, which likewise in its methodology and its outlook acted as some- 
thing of a transition between the neopositivism of the postwar years and the 
relativism of the post-Foucault years. 113 Schwoebel's analysis is more nu- 
anced than previous surveys, in that it moves easily amongst the variety of 
Renaissance images of the Turk. Whereas Southern was casually conscious of 
Cold War ideology, he nonetheless permitted the style of his lectures to 
shape his reconstruction of the past. By comparison Schwoebel is more 
aware of the implications of ideology. He marks the parallels of past and pre- 
sent without letting them dominate the evidence. In this regard he criticizes 
Southern implicitly. "It is understandable," he writes, "in light of recent his- 
tory and our present concern for world peace, that scholars should empha- 
size the pragmatic and scholarly approaches to the Turkish problem in the 
Renaissance. Certainly the ideas of Juan de Segovia or Nicholas of Cusa are 
more congenial to our generation than those of the crusade proponents. It 
would be misleading, however, to imply that the benevolent or even the re- 


alistic viewpoints were widespread in the half-century following the fall of 
Constantinople." 1 

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as in the twentieth, both sides 
claimed they were charged with a divine mission and that their respective 
regimes offered the best hope for humanity. 115 Both sides believed they were 
engaged in an all out struggle for survival. Both were determined to supplant 
the other's way of life. There were political, economic, and social as well as 
ideological differences, and although there were diplomatic exchanges and 
periods of uneasy peace, the ruling parties tended to favor a military solu- 
tion. Still, throughout the years of tension there were continued mercantile 
and cultural exchanges. Characteristically, Schwoebel points out the major 
differences as well, viz., the Ottomans were not totalitarian, and the monar- 
chies in the West were not democratic. Finally, he explains, whether at peace 
or at war, both sides were sensitive to public opinion, hence they promoted 
their policies with propaganda at home and abroad. 1 

This last point is key, because until the publication of The Shadow and 
the Crescent, historians had continued to focus on whether or not Western 
accounts of the Muslim world were deliberately falsified. The same battle 
was being fought over the chansons de geste. Were the Saracens typecast as 
a form of ideological propaganda? It seemed impossible to believe that such 
monstrous distortions about Islam could be perpetuated out of ignorance, 
especially in the face of credible evidence to the contrary, which was being 
brought back to Europe by diplomats, merchants, pilgrims, soldiers, and 
captives. How could the humanist Pius II (Aneas Sylvius Piccolomini) have 
had such an entirely ill-informed opinion about Islam? Surely his rhetoric 
was tied to his calls for a crusade. And if so, this would have been reactionary 
rather than "visionary," which is how Southern described it. 117 

Schwoebel deftly shows that the gracious letter to Mehmed II, which is the 
evidence Southern relied upon, was a singular exception to the Pope's usual 
stance and to that of other churchmen and intellectuals such as Cardinal 
Bessarion. 118 Given the fact that Pius II and other propagandists were desper- 
ately trying to affirm and shore up the common corps of Christendom, it is 
not surprising that scholars focused on the medieval view should see in it a 
high degree of homogeneity; after all, this was precisely the point that the 
churchmen were trying to make. Schwoebel's contribution is that he uses the 
abject failure of Pius's crusade to examine diversity of opinion in the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries, a development made possible, on the one hand, by 
Marxist and Annalist trends in scholarship that opened the door to new 
sources and encouraged researchers to ask questions about nonelites; and on 
the other hand, by his decision to focus on the late Middle Ages and the early 
modern period, when varied views were increasingly evident thanks to the new 
historiographical techniques of the humanists, the gradual secularization of 


European politics, and the changing nature of the Turkish threat, which was 
gradually becoming more political than ideological. 

Some historians had argued that the princes of Europe were unreceptive 
to the Pope's entreaties because Europe in general was relatively unconcerned 
about the fall of Constantinople. 119 But Schwoebel and others insist that 
while the success of a crusade would depend upon the Venetians, a crusade 
was not necessarily in their best interests, especially without the full backing 
of the other powers, something they readily explained to the Pope. As op- 
posed to focusing on the pronouncements of the church, by examining the 
reactions of average Europeans through apocryphal accounts and popular 
ballads such as the lament! di Constantinopoli, Schwoebel demonstrates that 
there was a sense of fear, guilt, and insecurity in Europe. He argues, natu- 
rally enough, that one's concern about the Turkish problem was in direct 
proportion to one's proximity to the frontier, 120 but while this is not exactly 
earth-shattering, it is something entirely missing from the analyses of earlier 
scholars. Europe was not, after all, homogenous. 

Likewise, Schwoebel takes the opportunity to address the issue of the 
continuation of medieval worldviews, which he does in an empathetic and 
balanced fashion. He shows that Western views of Islam depended upon a 
wide variety of key factors, that ignorant and informed writers worked side 
by side, that some ideas were continuations of the Middle Ages, that in 
some cases similar prejudices were formed independently for entirely new 
reasons, and that there were genuine attempts to see the Turks in a more 
understanding or, if you will, a more Christian light. Like their medieval 
predecessors, the Renaissance popes attributed their failure to realize a new 
crusade to the sinfulness of Christians, but this in no way diminished the 
ardor with which they preached. They could not see that the lack of action 
on the part of princes was actually the result of changing political and so- 
cial structures. Thus, the author observes, since they were "unable to un- 
derstand their own milieu, we can hardly expect them to offer anything 
new concerning their Muslim opponents." 121 

Beyond this, Schwoebel provides some extremely interesting (and highly 
relevant) insights into the nature of Renaissance historiography. In the fif- 
teenth and sixteenth centuries, some of those scholars writing about the 
Turks contributed to the genesis of modern historiography, because as agents 
of Western powers (La Broquiere), or as captives of the Turks (George of 
Hungary), or as individuals in pursuit of wealth (Spandugino), they showed 
that it was worthwhile to write about the Turks and that another culture 
could be studied successfully by outsiders. 122 Schwoebel contends that even 
Orientalists "of the worst stripe" performed a useful function, to the extent 
that although they were unaware of their own biases, they nonetheless 
launched a more critical methodology by rehabilitating historical studies 


based upon firsthand observation, a development that Momigliano de- 
scribed as "the first contribution of modern historiography to an indepen- 
dent study of the past." 123 But why then did these serious scholars continue 
to support outdated medieval ideas such as holy war? Why were they unable 
to break the chains of orthodoxy and reevaluate contemporary attitudes to- 
ward non-Christians in the light of this new firsthand evidence? Because, 
Schwoebel explains, this was precisely where the ancients failed them. 
Plutarch, it will be remembered, had criticized Herodotus for being too sym- 
pathetic to the barbarians. Generally speaking, the ancient Greek and 
Roman historians were every bit as prejudiced against outsiders as the Re- 
naissance writers for whom they served as models. 12 

Some of the same issues raised in regards to Renaissance writers were ex- 
amined by scholars interested in the Reformers' perspective on Islam. The 
debate was not new. As we saw above, those in The Moslem World circle had 
been publishing articles on Luther and Islam since before World War II, 
but a new critical apparatus was brought to bear on the problem in the 
1950s and 1960s, along with a certain irony and detachment that was lack- 
ing in earlier studies. The sectarianism, at any rate, was far less palpable. 

Plays, histories, diplomatic reports, pamphlets, news reports, popular 
songs, learned essays, travelers' tales: following the invention of the printing 
press more Europeans had more information about Islam than ever be- 
fore. 12 Not all of it was particularly trustworthy. As Kenneth Setton has 
pointed out, because the study of Arabic declined markedly between the 
mid-fourteenth and the mid-seventeenth centuries, much nonsense contin- 
ued to be written, which is hardly surprising, he adds, since "the mentality 
of the period was much less critical even than that of our own time." 127 
Nonetheless, the growing number of texts made available for a growing 
number of readers kept the Turks before the eyes of the public in a way that 
would have been impossible a the time of the crusades. 128 

In any case, if one considers the range of ideas espoused by Luther, 
Calvin, the Zurich Reformers, the Anabaptists, and sundry followers and 
imitators, it is easy to see how historians working on this period were struck 
by a diversity of opinion that seems to foreshadow the modern era. 129 One's 
view of Islam depended upon class, region, denomination, level of contact 
and, of course, level of personal interest. 130 Paul Coles argues that Balkan 
peasants and Greek islanders frequently welcomed the Turks as liberators 
from the severe economic oppression of their Western masters, an unfortu- 
nate circumstance that he explains by observing that these unlikely creatures 
were "half eastern" anyway. 131 Setton argues that most Germans did not give 
much thought to the Turks at all until after they defeated the Hungarians at 
Mohacs in 1526. Even then public attitudes had shifted somewhat from 
those of the Middle Ages. Whereas Luther, like many medieval writers, 


tended to see the Turks and Islam in general as a punishment from God, Set- 
ton shows that public opinion was changing in the sense that instead of call- 
ing for a new crusade, most Germans felt that the war against the Turks 
should be fought by the state. Furthermore, on a cultural/religious level, he 
makes the point that there was more disdain for the Christian Turks — who 
should have known better and become Protestants — than there was for the 
Muslim Turks, who really did not know any better. 132 

In his later work, Setton's analyses similarly rest upon the assumption 
that early modern merchants and politicians always operated on the basis 
of reasoned self-interest. He notes, for instance, that while the Turkish de- 
feats at Malta and Lepanto were welcomed in England, they were a far 
greater relief in Spain, Italy, and Austria; simultaneously, there was a subse- 
quent rise of anti-Catholic feeling in Istanbul "which played into the hands 
of the Protestants and, as time passed, proved of no small commercial ad- 
vantage to England and Holland, where the upper bourgeois could easily 
moderate their hostility to Islam." 133 Setton sees political and economic 
self-interest coming to the fore in the sixteenth century, a significant shift 
from the medieval world where even businessmen and politicians put God 
before profits. 

This is an old debate. Several generations of scholars have more or less 
agreed that the Ottomans "saved" Protestantism 13 — which is yet another 
way of saying that the West would not have "risen" if it were not for Islam — 
but there is far less agreement as to how Europeans reacted. Pointing to the 
diplomacy of Francis I and Elizabeth I, positivists of an earlier era generally 
believed that as the unity of Christendom broke down in the sixteenth cen- 
tury, secular attitudes gradually emerged that transformed the Turk from an 
enemy of Christ into an enemy of the nation; but when literary critics such 
as Samuel C. Chew took up the question, they found that distorted me- 
dieval perceptions about Islam were still well represented in Tudor culture. 
Rouillard explained the apparent discrepancy by trying to show that popu- 
lar opinion lagged far behind that of intellectuals and diplomats. 135 It must 
be kept in mind, however, as mentioned above, that Rouillard was searching 
for the roots of tolerance. By looking at peace treaties, diplomatic corre- 
spondence, treatises on international law, and ecclesiastical pronounce- 
ments, Franklin Baumer was able to show that even after the "diplomatic 
revolution" of the sixteenth century, many statesman, clergy, and publicists 
continued to advance timeworn misconceptions. 13 

Kenneth Setton's work reflects current trends in historiography to the 
extent that even his well documented and authoritative account of West- 
ern views is tied to contemporary concerns. In the introduction to West- 
ern Hostility to Islam, the author explicitly connects his decision to 
publish the book to recent turmoil in the Middle East, and to what he 


sees as "increasing Islamic hostility to the West." 137 It would be going too 
far to place Setton into the "clash of civilizations" camp, but he is clearly 
more pessimistic than hopeful. Like so many modern writers, he wonders 
how it is possible that increased interaction did not lead to better com- 
prehension, making the entirely understandable but false assumption that 
an objective knowledge of Islam will thereby lead to more dispassionate 
judgments. 138 "Both Christians and Muslims have done each other much 
evil," he sighs, "but for centuries we have waited in vain for some good 
to come of it all." 139 

Since the 1960s, the vast majority of the work that has been done on 
Western views of Islam in the premodern period reveals, on some level, a de- 
sire to enhance mutual understanding by exploring the origins and develop- 
ment of past attitudes. Some surveys that have appeared recently are 
uncomfortably sectarian in the old style of The Moslem World. 1 Others are 
similarly sectarian from the Catholic side. Still others are anti-western in 
the extreme. 1 Most, however, are intellectually honest attempts to cope 
with a set of problems that these scholars see as the most pressing of the late 
twentieth century. Nearly the entire body of work by W. Montgomery Watt 
following the publication of his still well respected volumes of the life of the 
Prophet fall into this category. 1 Like Norman Daniel, Watt was politically 
correct before it became fashionable; but unlike Daniel, who maintained 
high standards of scholarship even as his moral passion abated, Watt's last 
book, which is an impassioned call for cross-cultural dialogue, lack's the 
scholarly apparatus of his earlier works. 

This is not to say that a desire for mutual understanding necessarily mit- 
igates against quality research. The clearest example of this is the excellent 
work that has been published in the last 25 years by some of the scholars 
associated with the Centre d'Etudes Pour Le Dialogue Islamo-Chretien at the 
Pontificio Institute de Studi Arabi e Islamici. The institute's journal, 
Islamochristiana, first published in 1975, is absolutely essential for anyone 
working on Christian views of Islam, most significantly because of its Bib- 
liographie du dialogue Islamochretien, edited by Robert Caspar, which is a 
comprehensive bibliography of medieval Latin writers followed by Byzan- 
tine and Muslim authors, Arab Christians, Armenians, Georgians, and fi- 
nally, in the last volume, Christian authors writing in Syriac. And 
following a conference held in Cairo in 1990, the most renowned scholar 
associated with the institute, Georges Anawati, published a thin volume 
summarizing medieval attitudes toward Islam that includes an indispens- 
able bibliography of secondary sources. 

A series of books have appeared in recent years concerning Western views 
of Islam in the premodern period. Many of these share the hope of dia- 
logue and mutual understanding, but there is another trend, most noticeable 


in France — where the lines between popular history and scholarship have 
never been as clear cut as in other nations — which seeks to capitalize on con- 
temporary fears of cultural assimilation. Works such as those by Phillippe 
Senac are readable and reasonably well-informed, but positive images of 
Muslims are few and far between, and the threat posed by Islam in the past 
is sensationalized in a way that serves to reinforce contemporary stereo- 
types. In one recent book, for example, Senac and his coauthor, Carlos 
Laliena, describe Christian and Muslim communities in medieval Aragon as 
if the sociocultural barriers between them were impenetrable. 150 On one side 
of the mountain were the Muslims, who saw the Christians as polytheists; 
on the other, the Christians, who saw the Muslims as pagans; and in be- 
tween, perforce, a no-man's-land, a medieval demilitarized zone that sepa- 
rated the communities to everyone's relief. While there is some truth to this 
depiction, the lines are drawn too severely and the intercultural interstices 
are largely forgotten. Here, too, it would be overstating the case to call this 
a "clash of civilizations" model — if anything the most tendentious scholar- 
ship of that genre is to be found among the "anti-Orientalists." 151 Still, 
whereas those writers wishing for mutual understanding tend to present 
their hopes up front, here the assumptions remain unstated so that many 
readers, especially nonspecialists, may well be confirmed in their biases with- 
out having had the benefit of fair warning. 

Maybe we are not even framing the question properly. Although many at- 
tribute the rise of a Western identity to the recognition of Islam as 
"other," 152 it is easy to overemphasize the role of works such as the chansons 
de geste or the anti-Turkish broadsides of the sixteenth century in the es- 
tablishment of European public opinion. Most studies of medieval Chris- 
tendom have not emphasized the fear of Islam as the formative factor. As 
John Van Engen has pointed out, "In its most basic sense . . . the word 
Christianitas referred neither to an ecclesiastical polity nor to opponents of 
Islam but to the religious faith and practice that medieval men entirely pre- 
supposed when elaborating their policies and philosophical propositions." 153 

On the other hand, to the extent that Westerners were concerned with 
the East, Edward Said is absolutely correct: the Orient was experienced 
through stereotypes that, in turn, shaped the language, perception, and form 
of the encounter between Europe and Islam. 15 Unfortunately, the recogni- 
tion that all representations are representations does not get us very far. More 
than anything else, our attempts to recover past attitudes desperately lack a 
sufficient theoretical framework. Said spotted the trail but fell into the trap. 
"He who assumes a West assumes an East." 155 

In his follow-up to Theodor Arno's classic study on ethnocentrism, M. 
Rokeach examined the links between the closed mind and a neurotic sense of 


threat, demonstrating that people's responses to foreign cultures cannot be 
separated from their total behavior. 157 Scholars interested in cross-cultural en- 
counters should integrate this type of work into their research. 

Urs Bitterli, for example, in his studies of encounters between Europeans 
and Africans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, brings into play 
what he calls Geistesgeschichte, which is something of a mix between the his- 
tory of ideas and the bistoire des mentalites. 1 ^ 9, Bitterli is interested not so 
much in the events themselves, but in the ways in which those involved per- 
ceived their experiences and reported them through travel narratives, scien- 
tific treatises, and other sources. Source-texts are significant to the extent 
that they are produced by the confluence of the author's individuality and 
the uniqueness of the events he describes. To put it another way, Bitterli di- 
vides three types of encounters — contacts, collisions, relationships — into 
two aspects: the phenomenology of the encounter, which is the experience 
reconstructed within the context of political, economic, and social history, 
and the intellectual reflection on the encounter, which produces the source- 
text. Combined with the insights of sociologists like Arno and Rokeach, 
a framework emerges that informs not only our understanding of premod- 
ern attitudes, but also our understanding of how we experience the past. As 
we have seen, one's feelings about the Middle Ages and about European cul- 
ture in general determines to a great extent the empathy one brings to his or 
her research of past mentalities. 

In another theoretical study, Partha Mitter suggests that cross-cultural en- 
counters are subject to two principle variables: collective representations and 
personal psychology. Memory is guided by classification, which lies at the 
heart of perception; hence "cultural perception," which mediates between us 
and other, is necessarily tied up in the use of stereotypes. In effect, there is no 
other way that we can make sense of alien cultures. How else can we ex- 
pect Europeans to view Islam? (How else can we expect historians to view the 
past?) Mitter cites a beautiful example of the process of cultural perception 
from a previous study. When the English traveler Sir Thomas Herbert vis- 
ited a Hindu temple in the early seventeenth century, he had every opportu- 
nity to garner his own impressions, but in his writings he lifted the 
description of the temple whole cloth from the sixteenth-century Italian trav- 
eler Ludovico di Varthema, the reason being, Mitter explains, that the en- 
counter was so unfamiliar to Herbert, the Hindu images so threatening, that 
he was simply unable to digest the experience in a new and meaningful man- 
ner and unable to modify the preconceptions that he brought with him to the 
encounter. Thus stereotypes are cognitive devices for coming to terms with 
the alien. This goes a long way towards explaining what has mystified so 
many scholars viz., the seemingly impossible fact that premodern perceptions 
did not always become more accurate as more information became available. 


Cultural relativism does not take its first tentative steps until the appearance 
of Father Lafitau's Moeurs des sauvages americains (1724), and Vico's New Sci- 
ence (1725), wherein human nature is characterized as a process of accumu- 
lating knowledge and deepening understanding. Not infrequently we 
expect too much of our ancestors. 

Among other things, Mitter emphasizes that stereotypes are needed to 
make sense of the unfamiliar and should not be dismissed as mere preju- 
dices. A thorough comprehension of these psychosocial mechanisms is cru- 
cial to our interpretation of cross-cultural encounters past and present. Urs 
Bitterli came to the same conclusions: 

Given the pervasiveness of stereotyping one might ask skeptically whether it 
is possible to understand another culture at all. . . . [but] one can accept this 
truism without yielding to outright skepticism. Perception, understanding 
and representation are all obliged to use stereotypes. Stereotypes are not 
falsehoods, but simplified models which are necessary if we are to cope with 
the multiplicity of experience. The error lies not in using stereotypes, but in 
supposing that stereotypes are fully adequate representations ... it is possi- 
ble, though difficult, to use stereotypes in a critical and tentative manner, as 
frames within which the Other can be perceived and described with preci- 
sion. By such methods another culture can be accurately understood and 
represented; but this can only be done from an observer's specific historical 
standpoint, and within the conventions of representation that the observer 

Fear, hatred, curiosity, indifference, grudging respect: all of these atti- 
tudes surfaced, disappeared, resurfaced, and existed side by side in the pre- 
modern West. A plurality of opinion was the inevitable result of an 
intellectual climate that valued information about the East regardless of 
whether or not that knowledge was linked to power. The same can be said 
of contemporary opinion. On some levels there is far more intellectual and 
cultural parity among Mediterranean cultures today than there was in the 
years between Vico and Vichy. There was perhaps never a time when East 
and West were so alienated as the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twenti- 
eth centuries, an era of military expansion and contraction when the effects 
of the Enlightenment were making themselves felt, when Europe was in the 
throes of political upheaval, when the industrial revolution had gained 
enough momentum to push Europe into the modern era, when technology 
was still too unsophisticated and the Middle East and North Africa too poor 
and too backwards to experience the homogenizing effects of global capital 
and culture. Fulcher of Chartres' wonder at the way in which "Occidentals 
were becoming Orientals" could have been made by a Roman centurion or 
a University of Michigan exchange student, but not by Lord Cromer. The 


gap was at its widest in the colonial period and it would be incautious to 
project those views into an earlier era. 

Some medieval attitudes survived in some quarters; some were resur- 
rected at various times and places for reasons that may or may not have been 
the same as before; some apparent connections are false; others, tenuous; 
some ideas appear now and then but for entirely different reasons and in dif- 
ferent forms. And all the while our interpretations of these beliefs are buf- 
feted about by our own cultural perceptions. 

I began this "brief" history of past approaches with Nicholas of Cusa's 
observations that an unknowable universal truth is best approached through 
a variety of interpretations. Nicholas's aims were higher than mine here. 
Ironically, however, if we want to understand the reality of premodern per- 
ceptions, postmodernism has left us little choice but to approach the past 
from all sides, even if we have lost confidence in universals. The certainty of 
the positivists and neo-positivists is gone, the discipline is fragmented, im- 
portant monographs are being produced on an impressive range of prob- 
lems, there is much left to be done, and the definitive history of East- West 
encounters may never be written. 


1. Benjamin Disreali, Tancred: or, The new crusade (London, 1847). 

2. Edward Said, Orientalism (London and New York, 1995), 5, 295. First pub- 
lished in 1978. For an alternative view of the same problem, see Albert 
Hourani, Islam in European Thought (Cambridge, 1991). 

3. For an excellent summary of this debate, see John M. MacKenzie, Oriental- 
ism. History, Theory and the Arts (Manchester and New York, 1995), 1—42. 

4. Fulcher of Chartres, A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem, 1 095—1 127, 
trans. Frances Rita Ryan (Knoxville, 1969), 271. 

5. See John Meyendorff, "Byzantine Views of Islam," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 
18 (1964): 115—132; John C. Lamoreuax, "Early Eastern Christian Re- 
sponses to Islam," in Medieval Perceptions of Islam: A Book of Essays, ed. John 
Tolan (New York and London, 1996). 

6. For an interesting discussion of the concepts "East" and "West," see Bernard 
Lewis, Cultures in Conflict. Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Age of Dis- 
covery (New York and Oxford, 1995), 63-79. 

7. On Christian identity, see Raoul Manselli, "La respublica christiana e I'ls- 
lam, "in L'Occidente e I'lsllam nell'alto medioevo (Spoleto, 1965), 115—147. 
On European identity, see Robert Bartlett, The Making of Europe. Conquest, 
Colonization and Cultural Change, 950—1350 (Princeton, 1993); Denis Hay, 
Europe: The Emergence of an Idea, 2d edition (Edinburgh, 1968); Pirn den 
Boer, "Europe to 1914: the making of an idea," in The History of the Idea of 
Europe, eds. Kevin Wilson and Jan van der Dussen (London and New York, 


1995), 13—82; and Gerard Delanty, Inventing Europe. Idea, Identity, Reality 
(New York, 1995). 

8. Lee Patterson, "On the Margin: Postmodernism, Ironic History, and Me- 
dieval Studies," Speculum 65 (1990): 87-108, especially 88-91. On post- 
modern views of history, see Lee Patterson, "Literary History," in Critical 
Terms for Literary Study, ed. Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin 
(Chicago and London, 1990), 250—262; Linda Hutcheon, A Poetics of Post- 
modernism: History, Theory, Tiction (London, 1988); Jean-Francois Lyotard, 
The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington 
and Brian Massumi (Manchester, 1984); and Frederic Jameson, "Postmod- 
ernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," New Lefi Review 146 
(1984): 53-92. 

9. "On the Margin," 90. "In the ironic history of a historicist postmodernism, the 
hierarchical Modernist binarism of present and past is rewritten as difference." 

10. On the reaction of the profession to theoretical trends in sociology and lit- 
erary criticism, see Peter Novick, That Noble Dream. The "Objectivity Ques- 
tion" and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge and New York, 
1988), 522—628. On the fragmentation of the discipline, see Bernard Bai- 
lyn, "The Challenge of Modern Historiography," American Historical Review 
87 (1982): 1—24 and, from a medievalist's perspective, Georges Duby, 
Hommes et structures du moyen age (Paris, 1973). 

11. This view can generally be found among members of the anti-Orientalist 
school, see Said, Orientalism, 55—62; Hichern Djait, Europe and Islam 
(Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1985), 9—20; Rana Kabbani, Europe's Myths 
of Orient. Devise and Rule (London, 1986), 14—22. 

12. Kabbani, Europe's Myths of Orient, 10. 

13. Norman Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (Edinburgh, 
I960), 271—307- "We are entitled to say that this canon was formed during 
the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and the earlier part of the fourteenth, by 
the absorption of Oriental, Byzantine, and Mozarab traditions and, to a 
lesser extent or experience. By the middle of the fourteenth century it was 
firmly established in Europe; and it was to continue into the future so pow- 
erfully as to affect many generations, even up to the present day" (275). To- 
wards the end of the chapter Daniel exonerates academics to a certain extent 

14. The President of the Medieval Academy of America, Dana Carleton Munro, 
used "Islam" and "Mohammedanism" interchangeably when he addressed 
the sixth annual meeting in 1931. For the text of the address, which was a 
knowledgeable, positivist reading of crusades, see Speculum 6 (1931), 
329—343. For a similar usage, see Samuel C. Chew, The Crescent and the Rose 
(Oxford, 1937). Reprinted in New York in 1965. 

15. Maxime Rodinson, Europe and the Mystique of Islam, trans. Roger Veinus 
(London, 1988). First published as La Fascination de I'lslam in 1980. 

16. B. Ziolecki, Alexandre du Font's Roman de Mahomet, ein altfranzosisches 
Gedicht des XIII. Jahrhundert (Paris, 1831), trans. Ch. Pellat and reprinted 


in En Terre d'Islam (3rd trimestre, 1943); Alessandro d'Ancona, "La 
leggenda di Maometto in Occidents, " Giornale storico de letteratura italiana 
13 (1889), 199ff. Reprinted in Studii de Criticae Storia Letteraria (Bologna, 
1912). See also E. Doutte, Mahomet Cardinal (Chalons-sur-Marne, 1889), 
an excerpt with commentary of a fifteenth-century French poem that tells 
the legend of Muhammad as a renegade Roman cardinal; Rene Basset, 
"Hercule et Mahomet," Journal des Savants (July, 1903): 391 ff.; P. Al- 
phandery, "Mahomet-Antechrist dans le Moyen Age Latin" in Melanges 
Hartwig Derenbourg (Paris, 1909). 
17- See for example P. Casanova, "Mahom, Jupin, Appolon, Tervagent, dieux 
des Arabes," in Melanges Hartwig Derenbourg (Paris, 1909), 39 Iff, who ar- 
gues (unsuccessfully) that the names of these deities were mistaken corrup- 
tions of Arabic words. 

18. Gaston Paris, "La legende de Salah al-Din," Journal des savants (1893): 4 ff. 
and "Un poeme latin contemporain sur saladin," Revue de I'Orient latin 1 
(1893): 433 ff. For a recent and complete analysis of the Salah al-Din leg- 
end, see John V. Tolan, "Mirror of Chivalry: Salah al-Din in the Medieval 
European Imagination," in Medieval Perceptions of Islam: A Book of Essays, 
ed. John Tolan (New York and London, 1996), 7-38. 

19. See E. Dreesbach, Der Orient in der altfranzbsischen Kreuzzuglitteratur (Bres- 
lau, 1901); and Pierre Martino, L'Orient dans la litterature francaise (Paris, 
1906), which has a decent section on medieval and early modern literature. 

20. M. Asin y Palacios, Escatologia Musulmana en la Divina Comedia (Madrid, 

21. R. A. Nicholson, "Mysticism," in The Legacy of Islam, eds. Thomas Arnold 
and Alfred Guillaume (Oxford, 1931), 210-238. 

22. Chew, The Crescent and the Rose, 410, note 1. 

23. Chew, The Crescent and the Rose, 410, note 1 . For a summary of the debate, 
see especially Alison Morgan, Dante and the Medieval Other World (Cam- 
bridge, 1990) as well as V. Cantarino, "Dante and Islam: History and Analy- 
ses of a Controversy," in Alighieri Dante., Symposium Series in the Romance 
Languages and Literatures (Chapel Hill, 1965). On the same topic, see V. 
Cantarino, "Dante and Islam. Theory of Light in the Paradisio," Kentucky 
Romance Quarterly (1968), L. Olschki, "Muhammedan Eschatology and 
Dante's Other World," Comparative Literature 3 (1951): 1-17; and M. 
Rodinson, "Dante et I'lslam d'apres des travaux recents," Revue d'Histoire des 
Religions 139 (1951): 203—236. Most importantly, see Enrico Cerulli, // 
"Libro della Scala" e la questione delle fonti Arabospagnole della Divina Corn- 
media, Studi e testi 150 (Rome, 1949). See also Marcia Colish, "The Virtu- 
ous Pagan: Dante and the Christian tradition," in The Unbounded 
Community, Papers in Christian ecumenism in honor ofjaroslav Pelikan, eds. 
Duncan Fisher and William Caferro (New York, 1996). 

24. For the text, see Edouard Montet, "Un rituel d'abjuration des muslulmans 
dans l'eglise grecque," Revue d'Histoire des Religions 53 (1906): 145—63, fol- 
lowed by the commentary of F. Cumont, "Lorigine de la formule greque 


d'abjuration imposee auz musulmans," Revue d'Histoire des Religions 64 
(191 1). For a fascinating analysis of this issue, see Craig L. Hanson, "Manuel 
I Comnenus and the 'God of Muhammad': A Study in Byzantine Ecclesias- 
tical Politics," in Medieval Christian Perceptions of Islam, 55—82. 

25. See E. W. Platzeck, Raimond Lull: Sein Leben — Seine Werke — Die Grundla- 
gen seines Denkens, 2 vols. (Diisseldorf, 1962—1964) and R. Brummer, Bib- 
liographia Lulliana: Ramon-Lull-Schriftum, 1870—1973 (Hildesheim, 1976). 

26. One of the issues that needs to be examined in the historiography of this 
problem is this tendency among some scholars to create the "other" in their 
discourses on the European past, see for example Fred C. Robinson, "Me- 
dieval, the Middle Ages," Speculum 59 (1984): 745-56. 

27- Samuel Zwemer, Raymond Lull. First Missionary to the Moslems (New York, 
1902), 8-9. 

28. Zwemer, Raymond Lull, 155—56. 

29. G. Simon, "Luther's Attitude Toward Islam," The Moslem World 21 (1931): 

30. Said, Orientalism, see especially 130—56. It is worth noting here that Said, 
who understands Orientalism in its most narrow sense as a "field of study," 
believes that it began in 1312 with the Church Council of Vienne, which 
aimed to establish a series of chairs in Oriental languages at various Euro- 
pean universities (49—50). 

31 . R. W. Southern, Western Views of Islam m the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass. 
and London, 1962), 1—2. 

32. Kenneth Baxter Wolf, "Christian Views of Islam in Early Medieval Spain," 
in Medieval Christian Perceptions ofLslam, 95. 

33. For the works of Eulogius and Paul Alverus, see Patrologia cursus completus 
series Latina, vol. 115, 705—870 and vol. 121, 397—566. On the movement 
see C. M . Sage, Paul Albar of Cordoba: Studies on his Life and Writings 
(1943), and J. Madoz, Epistolario de Alvaro de Cordoba (1947), cited by 
Southern, Western Views ofLslam, 22, note 18. More recently see Kenneth 
Baxter Wolf, Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain (Cambridge, 1987); Edward 
Colbert, "The Martyrs of Cordoba (850-859): A Study of the Sources," 
(Washington, D.C., 1962); and Franz R. Franke, "Die freiwilligen Matyrer 
von Cordova und das Veraltnis des Mozarabes zum Islam (nach den 
Schriften von Speraindeo. Eulogius und Alvar), Spanische Forchungen des 
Gbrresgesellschaft 13 (1953): 1-170. 

34. Said, Orientalism, 151. 

35. "The Christians love to read the poems and romances of the Arabs; they 
study the Arab theologians and philosophers, not to refute them but to form 
a correct and elegant Arabic. Where is the layman who now reads the Latin 
commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, or who studies the Gospels, prophets 
or apostles? Alas! All talented young Christians read and study with enthu- 
siasm the Arab books; they gather immense libraries at great expense; they 
despise the Christian literature as unworthy of attention. They have forgot- 
ten their language. For every one who can write a letter in Latin to a friend, 


there are a thousand who can express themselves in Arabic with elegance, 
and write better poems in this language than the Arabs themselves." Paul Al- 
varus, Indiculus luminosus, Patrologia cursus completus series Latina vol. 121, 
555—556, quoted by Dozy, Histoire des Mussulmans d'Espagne, jusqu'a la con- 
quete de I'Andalousie par les Almoravides (Leiden, 1861), vol. 1, 317, and 
cited by Southern, Western Views of Islam, 21. 

36. Histoire des Mussulmans d'Espagne, vol. 2, 102—109. 

37- Cf. C. H. Haskins and D. P. Lockwood, "The Sicilian Translators of the 
Twelfth Century and the First Latin Version of Ptolemy's Almagest," Harvard 
Studies in Classical Philology 21 (1910). 

38. Southern, Western Views of Islam, 2. 

39. Here I will be referring to the reprint (New York, 1965). See also from this pe- 
riod, Clare Howard, English Travellers of the Renaissance (London, 1914); 
Warner G. Rice, "Early English Travellers to Greece and the Levant," in Essays 
and Studies in English Comparative literature by Members of the English De- 
partment of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, 1 933); Byron Porter Smith, 
Islam in English literature (Beirut, 1939); Robert Munster and Clyde Gross, 
Englishmen Abroad: Being an Account of Their Travels in the Seventeenth Cen- 
tury (London, ca. 1940); and Boles Penrose, Travel and Discovery in the Re- 
naissance 1420—1620 (Cambridge, Mass., 1952). More recent works include 
Christian K. Zacher, Curiosity and Pilgrimage: The literature of Discovery in 
Fourteenth-Century England (Baltimore, 1976); Donald R. Howard, Writers 
and Pilgrims: Medieval Pilgrimage Narratives and Their Posterity (Berkeley, 
1980); Urs Bitterli, Encounters between European and Non-European Cultures, 
1492-1800, trans. Ritchie Robertson (Cambridge, Mass., 1988); Mary B. 
Campbell, The Witness and the Other World: Exotic European Travel Writing, 
800-1600 (Cornell, 1988); Jack DAmico, The Moor in English Renaissance 
Drama (Tampa, Fla., 1991); and Anthony Pagden, European Encounters with 
the New World (Hew Haven and London, 1993). 

40. Chew, The Crescent and the Rose, 88. 

41 . The Crescent and the Rose, 452-540. 

42. Clarence Dana Rouillard, The Turk in French History, 7, 37, 641 — 45. 

43. The Turk in French History, 291. 

44. The Turk in French History, 291. 

45. The Turk in French History, 400^02. 

46. The Turk in French History, 351. For a similarly apologetic stance, see D. Ha- 
didi, Voltaire et I'lslam (Paris, 1974). 

47- See for instance Said's chapter entitled "Orientalism Now," in Orientalism, 
199-328, as well as the afterward of the 1995 edition, 329-54. 

48. Cf. Kulturgeschichte der Kreuzzuges (Berlin, 1883). For other German contribu- 
tions see Dreesbach, Der Orient in der altfranzosischen Kreuzzugslitteratur; P. O. 
Keicher, Raymundus lullus und Seine Stellung zur Arabischen Philosophic (Mun- 
ster, 1909); B. Altaner, "Zur Geshichte der anti-Islamischen Polemik wahrend 
des 13. und 14. Jahrhunderts," Historische Jahrbuch der Gbrres gesellschaft 556 
(1936): 227—33; and more recently, H. Schipperges, Die Assimilation der 


arabeschen Medizin durch das lateinische Mittkalter (Wiesbaden, 1964); E. Eick- 
hoff, Seekrieg und Seepolitik zwischen Islam und Abendland (Berlin, 1966); and 
Ekkehart Rotter, Abendland und Sarazen. Das okzidentale Araberbild und seine 
Entstehung im Frubmittelater (Berlin and New York, 1986). 

49. See Thabit Abdullah, "Arab Views of Northern Europeans in Medieval His- 
tory and Geography," in Images of the Other, 73—80; Elizabeth Sartain, "Me- 
dieval Muslim-European Relations: Islamic Juristic Theory and Chancery 
Practice," in Images of the Other, 81—95; Omaima Abou-Bakr, "The Reli- 
gious Other: Christian Images in Sufi Poetry," in Images of the Other, 
96—108; Aziz al-Azmeh, "Barbarians in Arab Eyes," Past and Present 134 
(1992): 3—18; W. Montgomery Watt, Muslim-Christian Encounters: Percep- 
tions and Misperceptions (London, 1991); Amin Maalouf, Pes croisades vues 
par les Arabes (Paris, 1983). Also see Bernard Lewis, The Muslim Discovery of 
Europe (London, 1982); Arab Historians of the Crusades, ed. F. Gabrieli 
(Berkeley, 1969). 

50. Marie- Therese d'Alverny, "Deux traductions latines du Coran au Moyen 
Age," Archives d'histoire doctrinale et litteraire du Moyen Age 16 (1948): 

51. Cf. J. Kritzeck, "Robert of Ketton's translation of the Koran," Islamic Quar- 
terly! (1955): 309-12. 

52. Lo studio dell'Islam, 8—20. 

53. Lo studio dell'Islam, 71—77. 

54. L'Islamismo, 328—30. 

55. Munro, Speculum 6 (1931): 329-43. 

56. S. P. Scott, History of the Moorish Empire in Europe, vol. 3, (Philadelphia, 
1904), 203. 

57. Munro, "The Western Attitude Toward Islam," 338. 

58. C. Meredith Jones, "The Conventional Saracen of the Songs of the Geste," 
Speculum 17 (1942): 201-25. 

59. "The Conventional Saracen," 202—204, 225. 

60. "The Conventional Saracen," 213. 

61. Stanley Lane-Poole, Salah al-Din (London, 1898). 

62. "The Conventional Saracen," 223. 

63. Ultimately Daniel corrects Jones's view on the intentions of the poets, see 
Heroes and Saracens. An Interpretation of the Chansons de gestes (Edinburgh, 
1984). See also Paul Bancourt, Les Musulmans dans les Chansons de geste du 
Cycle de Roi (Provence, 1982); and Barbara P. Edmonds, "Le portrait des 
Sarrasins dans la Chanson de Roland," The French Review 44 (1971): 

64. Southern, Western Views of Islam, preface. 

65. "The Church and Islam," The Dublin Review (Winter, 1957), 271-312; Part 
1, R.C. Zaehner, "Islam and Christ," 271-288, Part II, N. Daniel; "The De- 
velopment of the Christian Attitude to Islam," 289—312. 

66. Zaehner, "Islam and Christ," 271. 

67. "Islam and Christ," 273-74. 


68. "Islam and Christ," 288. 

69. "The Development of the Christian Attitude to Islam," 292. 

70. "The Development of the Christian Attitude to Islam," 292. 

71. Said, Orientalism, pp. 314—16. 

72. "The Development of the Christian Attitude to Islam," 307- 

73. "The Development of the Christian Attitude to Islam," 305—306. 
~]A. "The Development of the Christian Attitude to Islam," 309—11. 

75. Cf. Islam and the West, 301-307. 

76. Orientalism, XJ1. 

77. Norman Daniel, The Arabs and Medieval Europe, 33, 115-20, 123, 130-31, 
134-37, 144, 149, 207-209, 213, 231-34, 254. 

78. Cf. Islam and the West, 271-72. 

79. Cf. The Arabs and Medieval Europe, 65, 138,206. 

80. Islam and the West, 3, 161, 232, 252, 271-302; The Arabs and Medieval Eu- 
rope, 115, 206, 249, 311, 323-30. 

81. The Arabs and Medieval Europe, 23—48. 

82. Quotations from Islam and the West, 32, 37, 48. 

83. The Arabs and Medieval Europe, 32, 62, 74-75. 

84. Islam and the West, 271—307; Norman Daniel, The Arabs and Medieval Eu- 
rope (London, 1975) 12, 15-16, 32, 39^i5, 62, 74-75, 79, 88-95, 143, 
155, 198, 214, 220-221, 280, 323-30. 

85. Daniel, Arabs and Medieval Europe, 2. 

86. Daniel, Arabs and Medieval Europe, 301. 

87. Islam and the West, 302. 

88. Maxime Rodinson, Europe and the Mystique of Islam, 75. 

89. Daniel, Heroes and Saracens. 

90. Islam and the West, 48, 54—57; Heroes and Saracens, 11. 

91. Heroes and Saracens, 16—18. 

92. Two years before the appearance of Jones's article, William Wistar Comfort 
had argued an intermediate position. Like Daniel, he saw the Saracens of the 
chansons de geste as literary types, but like Jones he criticizes the poets for 
their intolerance, for not knowing better, and for using the chansons as a 
form of anti-Muslim propaganda, "The Literary Role of the Saracens in the 
French Epic," Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 55 
(1940): 621-59. 

93. Heroes and Saracens, 19. 

94. Heroes and Saracens, 266- 67 '. 

95. Heroes and Saracens, 276. 

96. Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages, 7. 

97. Orientalism, especially 130—57. 

98. Western Views of Islam, 3. 

99. Western Views of Islam, 25. 

100. Southern argued for the linkage of history to contemporary events in The 
Shapes and Influence of Academic History (Oxford, 1961). The same argument 


was made several years earlier by E. N. Johnson, "American Mediaevalists and 
Today," Speculum 28 (1953): 844-54. 

101. Western Views of Islam, 2—3. 

102. Western Views of Islam, 42. 

103. Western Views of Islam, 34—66. 

104. Western Views of Islam, 86-94. 

105. Western Views of Islam, 61. 

106. Western Views of Islam, 91. 

107- Western Views of Islam, 91—92 and note 39. 

108. Lawrence Stone, "The Revival of Narrative: Reflections on a New Old His- 
tory," Past and Present 85 (1979): 9. 

109. Daniel suggested that "Saracen" in the sense of Muslim was replaced by 
"Turk," while "Saracen" in the sense of "Arab" was replaced by "Moor," He- 
roes and Saracens, 8—9 . 

110. Albert Mas, Les Turcs dans la litterature espangnole du siecle d'or (Recberches 
sur revolution d'un theme litteraire, 2 vols. (Paris, 1967). 

111. les Turcs dans la litterature espangnole, vol. 1, 299—335. 

1 12. Les Turcs dans la litterature espangnole, vol. 2, 471- 

113. Robert Schwoebel, The Shadow and the Crescent: The Renaissance Image of the 
Turk (1453-1517) (Nieuwkoop, 1967). 

114. The Shadow and the Crescent, 225. 

115. The Shadow and the Crescent, ix. 

116. The Shadow and the Crescent, ix. 

1 17. Western Views of Islam, 98-103. 

118. The Shadow and the Crescent, 65—73. 

119. "The fifteenth century Germans, like their western neighbors, were in gen- 
eral unperturbed by the fall of Constantinople and subsequent enslavement 
of the Balkan peninsula by the Turks. Except for a few scattered pamphlets 
condemning the conquerors for their religion rather than their aggressions, 
the Germans did not express disapproval of the changes occurring in south- 
eastern Europe; nor did they advocate any action against the Infidels." 
Stephen Fischer-Galaati, Ottoman Imperialism and German Protestantism, 
1521-1555. (Cambridge, 1959), 9. See also M. Gilmore, The World of Hu- 
manism (1453—1517) (New York, 1952); S. Runciman, The Fall of Constan- 
tinople, 1453 (Cambridge, 1965). 

120. Paul Coles argued the opposite, i.e., that fear and loathing increased as one 
moved westward away from the frontier, The Ottoman Impact on Europe 
(New York, 1968), 145-53. 

121. The Shadow of the Crescent, 147-^8. 

122. The Shadow of the Crescent, TIG. 

123. A. Momigliano, Studies in Historiography (New York, 1966), 137, cited by 
Schwoebel, The Shadow of the Crescent, 148. 

124. The Shadow of the Crescent, 148 

125. Simon, "Luther's Attitude toward Islam," The Moslem World 21 (1931): 


126. Cf. Carl Goliner, Turcia: Die europdischen Tiirkendrucke des XVI Jahrhun- 
derts, 2 vols. (Busharest, Berlin, 1961) and Andre Vouard, Les Turqueries 
dans la litterature francaise (Paris, 1959). 

127. Keneth Setton, Western Hostility to Islam and the Prophecies of Turkish Doom 
(Philadelphia, 1992), 14, 17. 

128. Schwoebel, The Shadow of the Crescent, 166. "Among those who aided in dis- 
seminating and perpetuating the conception of the Turk as the bloodthirsty 
foe of Christ and Plato, a crucial role was played by the scholar-publishers — 
pioneers of the first half-century of printing. Combining a sharp eye for 
business, a passion for scholarship, and some spiritual concern for the moral 
issues of the day, they quickly yielded their presses in defense of the faith. 
Publishing reports of the Ottoman advance, the tales of travelers, histories, 
and a wide variety of publicist pieces, the printers kept the Turkish peril be- 
fore the eyes of an ever-expanding reading public. Although it cannot be said 
that the Turkenfurcht was mainly the product of their publishing ventures, 
it was certainly true that their printed texts, often accompanied by pictorial 
illustrations, further stimulated the sense of crisis. The large volume of works 
made available for the new reading public of the Renaissance presented the 
Eastern peril in terms and proportions inconceivable in the Middle Ages. 
Thus in the fifteenth century the Turk became a more immediate threat 
owing not alone to his geographical proximity, but as the result of the tech- 
nological revolution in printing." 

129. Victor Segesvary, L'Islam et la Reforme. Etude sur {'attitude des Reformateurs 
zurichois envers ITslam (1510—1550) (Lausanne, 1977) includes an excellent 
bibliography of both primary and secondary sources. On the attitudes of 
Calvin, see J. Pannier, "Calvin et les Turcs," Revue Historique 180 (1937): 

130. Cf. Stephen Fischer-Galati, "The Protestant Reformation and Islam," in The 
Mutual Effects of the Islamic and Judeo-Christian Worlds: The East European 
Pattern (New York, 1969), 53-64. 

131. Coles, The Ottoman Impact on Europe, 145. 

132. Kenneth Setton, "Lutherism and the Turkish Peril," Balkan Studies 3 (1962): 

133. Western Hostility to Islam, 43^4. See also The Papacy and the Levant 
1204-1571. 4 vols. (Philadelphia 1978-1984). 

134. Cf. Stephen A. Fisher-Galati, Ottoman Imperialism and German Protes- 
tantism, 1521—1555 (Cambridge, 1959), which includes a good bibliogra- 
phy, and Fischer-Galati, "Ottoman Imperialism and the Lutheran Struggle 
for Recognition in Germany, 1520—1529," Church History 23 (1954): 
46—67- See also George W. Forrell, "Luther and the War Against the Turks," 
Church History 14 (1945). 

135. The Turk in French History. 

136. "England, the Turk, and the Common Corps of Christendom," American 
Historical Review 50 (1944-45): 26^8. See also N. H. Hantsch, Le prob- 
leme de la lutte contre Tinvasion turgue dans I'idee politique de Charles Quint 


(Paris, 1959). See also Joseph Lecler, Histoire de la tolerance au siecle de la Re- 
forme (Paris, 1994). First published in 1955. 

137. Kenneth Setton, Western Hostility to Islam and Prophecies of Turkish Doom 
(Philadelphia, 1992), 1, note 1. 

138. Western Hostility to Islam, 47. 

139. Western Hostility to Islam, preface. 

140. Cf. James Thayer Addison, The Christian Approach to the Moslem (New York, 
1966). First published in 1942. 

141. Cf. Jean Marie Gaudeul, Encounters and Clashes. Islam and Christianity in 
History (Rome, 1984). In his preface the author explains that he wrote the 
book "to meet the needs of Christians and Pastors who wish to dispel the 
cloud of misunderstanding existing between Christians and Muslims so that 
the light of Christ may shine without distortion or hindrance." Gaudel 
worked at the Pontificio Institute de Studi arabi e Islamici. 

142. Cf. Hichem Djait, I'Europe et I'lslam (Paris, 1978) and Rana Kabbani, Eu- 
rope's Myths of Orient. Devise and Rule (London, 1986), who feels that "a lit- 
erature of travel cannot but imply a colonial relationship. The claim is that 
one travels to learn but really, one travels to exercise power over land, 
women, peoples" (10). 

143. On some levels even Muhammad at Mecca (Oxford, 1953) and Muham- 
mad at Medina (Oxford, 1956) are attempts to bridge misunderstandings, 
as was his earlier book, Free Will and Predestination in Early Islam (Lon- 
don, 1948). But here I am thinking of "L'lnfluence de I'lslam sur I'Europe 
medievale," Revue des Etudes Islamiques 40 (1972): 7—41, 297—327 and 41 
(1973): 127—56; "Muhammad in the Eyes of the West," Boston University 

JournalTl (Fall 1974): 61—69; The Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe 
(Edinburgh, 1972), which is a short summary of the state of scholarship 
on this subject. 

144. W. Montgomery Watt, Muslim-Christian Encounters (1991). 

145. A similar Catholic scholarly initiative is the French Groupe de Recherches 
Islamo-Chretien, which publishes a series called Orient-Orientations. See for 
example Pere Michel Lelong, lEglise Catholique et I'lslam (Paris, 1993). 

146. Islamochristiana 1 (1975): 125-81; 2 (1976): 187-249; 3 (1977): 255-86; 
4 (1978); 247-67; 5 (1979): 299-317; 6 (1980): 259-99; 7 (1981): 
299-307; 10 (1984): 273-92. 

147. Islam e Cristianesmo: ITncontro tra due cultlure nell' Occidente medievale 
(Milan, 1994). See also on this subject, Anawati's important book Polemique, 
apologie et dialogue Islamo-chretiens. Positions classiques medievales et positions 
contemporaines (Rome, 1969). 

148. Cf. Images of the Other, ed. Blanks (1997); Medieval Perceptions of Islam, 
ed., Tolan (1996); Bernard Lewis, Cultures in Conflict: Christians, Muslins 
and Jews in the Age of Discovery (New York and Oxford, 1995); Orientalis- 
che Kultur and europdische Mittelalter (Berlin, 1995) (conference proceed- 
ings); The Introduction of Arabic Philosophy into Europe, eds. Charles E. 
Butterworth and Blake Andree Kessel (Leiden, New York, and Cologne, 


1994); Felice Dassetto, Llslam in Europa (Torino, 1994); Bettina Munzel, 
Feinde, Nachbarn, Bundnispartner, Themen und formen der Darstellung 
christich-muslimischer Begegnungen in ausgewahlten historiographischen, 
Quellen des Islamischen Spanien (Munster, 1994); Dialogo fdosofico-religioso 
entre christianismo, judaismo e islamismo durante la edad medi en la penin- 
sula iberica I actes du colloque international de SanLorenzo de El Escorial, 
21—23juin 1991, ed. Horacio Santiago-Otero (Turnout, Belgium, 1994); 
Roger Arnaldez, A la croisee des trois montheismes (Paris, 1993); Jean Flori, 
La premiere croisade: I'Occident chretien contre I'Islam: aux origines des 
ideologies occidentales, 1095-1099 (Brussels and Paris, 1992); B. Reilly, 
The Contest of Christian and Muslim Spain, 1031-1157 (Oxford, 1992); 
Tolede, Xlle-XIIIe. Musulmans, chretiens et juifs: le savoir et la tolerance, ed., 
L. Cardaillac (Paris, 1991); Ron Barkai, Cristianos y musulmanes en la Es- 
paha medieval (el enemigo en le espejo) 2d ed. (Madrid, 1991); Conversion 
and Continuity: Indigenous Christian Communities in Islamic Lands, Eighth 
to Eighteenth Centuries, ed., M. Gervers and R. Bikhazi (Toronto, 1990); 
P. Guichard, Les musulmans de Valence et la reconquete (Xie—XIIIe siecles) 
(Damascus, 1990); Muslims under Latin Rule, 1100—1300, ed., James Pow- 
ell (Princeton, 1990); Mikel de Epalza,/«z« otage: juifs, chretiens et musul- 
mans en Espagne, Vie— Vile siecle (Paris, 1987); Ekkehart Rotter, Abendland 
und Sarazenen (Berlin and New York, 1986); Kenneth Setton, The Papacy 
and the Levant, 1204-1571, 4 vols. (1978-1984); D. Millet-Gerard, Chre- 
tiens mozarabes et culture islamique dans TEspagne des viiie—ixe siecles (Paris, 
1984); Benjamin Kedar, Crusade and Mission: European Approaches Toward 
the Muslim (Princeton, 1 984) ; Islam et chretiens du Midi: Xlle—XIVe siecles, 
18th Colloque de Fanjeux (Toulouse, 1983); Anwar G. Chejne, Islam and 
the West: The Moriscos, A Cultural and Social History (Albany, 1983); Don- 
ald Howard, Writers and Pilgrims. Medieval Pilgrimage Narrative and their 
Posterity (Berkeley, 1980); Islam and the Medieval West. Aspects of Intercul- 
tural Relations, ed. Khalil Seeman (New York, 1980); Thomas Glick, Is- 
lamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages: Comparative 
Perspectives on Social and Cultural Formation (Princeton, 1979); J. Richard, 
Les relations entre I'Occident et TOrient au Moyen Age (London, 1977); and 
Dorothee Metlitzki, The Matter of Araby in Medieval England (New 
Haven, Conn., 1977). 

149. Phillipe Senac, Frontieres et espaces pyreneens au Moyen Age (Perpignan, 
1992); L'image de Tautre, Histoire de I'Occident medievale face a I'Islam (Paris, 
1983); Provence et piraterie sarrasine (Paris, 1982); Musulmans et Sarrasins 
dans le sud de la Gaule: VII-XI siecles (Paris, 1980). 

150. Phillipe Senac and Carlos Laliena, Musulmans et Chretiens dans le Haut 
Moyen Age: aux Origines de la Reconquete Aragonaise (Paris, 1991). For an- 
other example of this type of work see Pierre Tucoo-Chala, Quand I'Islam 
etait aux portes des Pyrenees (Biarritz, 1994). 

151. For a bibliography and critique of the "anti-Orientalists," see Sadiq al-Azm, 
Al-Istishraq iva'l-istishraq ma'kusan (Beirut, 1981), of which there exists an 


abridged English translation, "Orientalism and Orientalism in Reverse," 
Khamsin 8 (1981); 5—26. See also Fu'ad Zakaria, "Naqd al-Isthishraq wa'az- 
mat al-thaqafa al-Arabiyya al-mu'asira," Fikr 19 (1986): 33—75, of which 
there exists an abridged French translation in a collection of Zakaria's essays, 
Laicite ou Islamisme: les arabes a I'heure du choix (Paris and Cairo, 1990), 

152. Cf. Hay, Europe. The Emergence of an Idea. For an alternate approach, see 
Robert Bartlett, The Making of Europe, in which he examines, among 
other things, the ways in which European identity was formed in central 

153. "The Christian Middle Ages as an Historiographical Problem," American 
Historical Review 91 (1986): 541. See also Jean Delumeau, Un chemin d'his- 
toire: Chretienite et dechristianisation (Paris, 1981). Cristianizzazione ed orga- 
nizzazione ecclesiastica delle campagne nell'alto medievo: Espansione e resistenze 
(Spoleto, 1982); Ramsey MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire 
(A.D. 100-400) (New Haven, Conn., 1984). 

154. Orientalism, 58. 

155. Emmanuel Sivan, Interpretations of Islam Past and Present (Princeton, 
1985), 136. See also Nadim al-Bitar, "Min al-istishraq 'arabi" in Hudud al- 
Hutviyya al-Qawmiyya (Beirut, 1982), 153—196; and M. H. A. al-Saghin, 
Al-Mustashriqun wa-l-Dirasat al-Qur'aniyya (Beirut, 1983). 

156. TheodorArno, The Authoritarian Personality (New York, 1950). 

157. M. Rokeach, The Open and Closed Mind (New York, I960). See also E. H. 
Gombich, Art and Illusion (London, 1959), who discusses the use of stereo- 
types to impart information about the outside world; and K. Oatley, Per- 
ception and Representations (London, 1978), who looks at our indirect 
perception of the "other" as it is filtered through our cultural perception. 
All of these works are cited by Partha Mitter, "Can we ever understand alien 
cultures? Some epistemological concerns relating to the perception and un- 
derstanding of the Other," Comparative Criticism. An Annual Journal 19 
(1987): 3—34. See also James Boon, Other Tribes, Other Scribes: Symbolic 
Anthropology in the Comparative Study of Cultures, Histories, Religions, and 

Texts (Cambridge, 1982); Johannes Fabius, Time and the Other: How An- 
thropology Makes Its Object (New York, 1983); and Victor and Edith Turner, 
Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture: Anthropological Perspective (New 
York, 1978). 

158. Urs Bitterli, Die Entdeckung des schwarzen Afrikaners: Versuch einer Geistes- 
geschichte der euoropaisch-afrikanischen Beziehungen an der GuineaKiiste im 
17, und 18. Jahrhundert (Zurich, 1970). 

159. Bitterli, Cultures in Conflict (1989). 

160. Mitter, "Can we ever understand alien cultures?," 7—13. 

161. Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters: The History of European Reactions to In- 
dian Art (Oxford, 1977), 17—23. For similar excellent studies, see Pagden, 
European Encounters (1993), and Campbell, The Witness and the Other 
World (1988). 


162. This phenomenon is reminiscent of an observation made by R. Boswell 
Smith, speaking of his countrymen, who said that "military officers and even 
civil servants of the crown have gone out to India, passed years there, and re- 
turned again, still fancying that Musulmans are idolaters." Mohammed and 
Mohammedanism (London, 1876), 60. 

163. Watt, Muslim-Christian Encounters, 11—13. 

164. Cultures in Conflict, 7. 

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Chapter Two 

Popular Attitudes 
Towards Islam in 
Medieval Europe* 

Jo Ann H o cppncr Moran Cruz 

In the past historians and literary scholars have exhibited a tendency to 
view the European Middle Ages from a universalist viewpoint, general- 
izing about all of Europe and much of the Middle Ages. Historians char- 
acterized the Middle Ages in terms of ecclesiastical hierarchy and doctrinal 
unity. For quite some time, there was a notion that medieval Europe was 
governed by something called a feudal "system." These ideas can still be 
found in textbooks and introductory surveys, although the authors of these 
textbooks have, by and large, replaced them with more nuanced interpreta- 
tions. Similarly, literary criticism was, at one time, dominated by the Prince- 
ton school of D. W. Robertson, which read medieval literature almost 
exclusively in terms of scripture, Augustinianism, and the central concept of 
charity. This, too, has been replaced by a more sophisticated sense of the 
complexity of medieval literary production. 

This same universalizing tendency has been applied to portrayals of Eu- 
ropean medieval views of Islam, which are sometimes viewed as uniformly 
hostile. In fact, they mixed popular and learned views, 1 intermingled the re- 
alistic with the marvelous and the legendary, modulated over time and ran 
the gamut from the murderous to the empathic. The variety of views on 
Islam among Western Christians in the Middle Ages is not well understood. 2 


Instead, views such as those of Edward Said, which paint an unsustainable 
picture of a uniformity of views among Europeans in the modern period, are 
read back into earlier centuries. On the other hand, it is also the case that 
many of the most ill-informed views of Islam in the Middle Ages were pre- 
cisely those that gave rise to legendary and long-lived images and prejudices 
that have continued to inform European attitudes. By way of offering back- 
ground for the succeeding essays in this volume, this essay will look at some 
of the more popular conceptions of Islam current in the Middle Ages. 

There are approximately 100 surviving chansons de geste from the Mid- 
dle Ages, and references in that literature to many others that have not sur- 
vived. The most famous of these is the Chanson de Roland (from ca. 1 100), 
the sole surviving manuscript 3 of which was discovered in England at the be- 
ginning of the nineteenth century. It is worth exploring the way legend 
works in relation to the Chanson de Roland, in order to understand better 
western views of Islam. 

In 778, when Charlemagne was a relatively young king, his army was en- 
listed to help the Muslim governors of Barcelona and Saragossa against the 
Umayyad caliph in Cordoba; he was functioning, essentially, as a mercenary 
within an Islamic factional struggle. For a variety of reasons, the campaign 
was unsuccessful. On the return home, Charlemagne's men sacked the town 
of Pamplona, killing and looting. In retaliation the Basques/Gascons (Was- 
cones) ambushed Charlemagne's rear guard in the Pyrenees, killing everyone 
and making away with the booty from Pamplona. The Franks never re- 
venged for themselves this massacre, and Charlemagne appears to have re- 
fused to allow anyone, during his lifetime, to mention it. It was, in fact, the 
only military defeat of his career. The dramatic, unavenged (and unutter- 
able) defeat then entered the realm of the legendary, where vengeance is ex- 
tracted in legend if not in reality. The Christians have their vengeance in the 
Chanson de Roland, where Charlemagne is said to have conquered all of 
Spain with the exception of Saragossa. In this legend the enemies have be- 
come the Saracens rather than Wascones, some of whom are dark (literally, as 
the epic notes, "blacker far than ink"), connoting evil. The Christians are 
guided by the sun, by angels, and by God. The Christians are right; the Sara- 
cens are wrong. On the basis alone, it is clear that the Saracens will lose this, 
by now, nearly apocalyptic battle. 

Scholarly focus on the Saracens in the Chanson de Roland has noted that 
the epic song depicts them as idolaters but, in other respects, as worthy op- 
ponents to the Christians. This is not entirely correct. The Saracens show 
numerous negative traits besides being non-Christians. They are involved in 
trickery; they are willing to sacrifice their firstborn sons in order to outwit 
Charlemagne. They kill negotiators from the other side; they are cowards 
and run from the battlefield; they fight for the wrong reasons — wealth, land, 


and women — and they destroy their own idols when they lose the battle. 
One of the slaughtered "pagans" is described as having taken Jerusalem by 
treachery, having desecrated Solomon's temple, and having killed the patri- 
arch before the altar. 

The fact that these Saracens are pagan, that they worship idols — in this 
case Apollyon, Tervagant, and Mahomet — has been much discussed, but not 
convincingly understood, in the scholarly literature. 7 Legends do not spring 
from historical vacuums. In this case, the Islamic armies that fought in Spain 
were a very mixed crew, both in legend and in reality. Baligant's army, as de- 
scribed in the Chanson de Roland, consisted of Nubians, two divisions of 
Slavs, Armenians, Moors, Pechenegs, Avars, Huns, and Hungarians, among 
others. Although some of these groups had, themselves, become legendary, 
this is not such a far-fetched list. 8 The Slavs, in particular, were slave soldiers 
and guards of the Umayyad rulers in Spain from perhaps the early ninth cen- 
tury, and sometimes held high posts in the administrative, judicial, and mil- 
itary ranks. Particularly under Abd ar-Rahman III, in the first half of the 
tenth century, the Slavs 9 constituted a large mercenary force along with the 
Berbers, black Africans, and some Christians. The commander of the Mus- 
lim force at the battle of Alhandega in 938—39 was a Slav general. Most Slavs 
would have been pagan and, even those Slavs who were neo-Muslims must 
have retained some of their pagan ways. 10 Paul Bancourt notes the wide 
range of pagan peoples named in the Roland epics, including the Wiltzes, 
the Sorbes from the middle Elbe region, the Borusses (or Pruzzi), the Rus, 
Avars, Polonais, Esclavons, Bulgares, Hongrois from Europe, in addition to 
peoples of Asia including the Petchings and Comans, and peoples of Africa, 
including the Nubians and Ethiopians. He concludes 11 that these epics take 
us back to a time when a variety of pagan peoples menaced Christian Eu- 
rope. The question, then, should not be whether the depiction of the Sara- 
cens as pagans was due to ignorance or deliberate fiction, but rather, why the 
memory of pagan warriors in Europe hung on for so long. Even as late as the 
thirteenth century, epics relating to William of Orange (from southern 
France) describe the pagans as both Saracens and Slavs; in fact the leader of 
the Saracens, the King of Orange whose city and wife William conquers, is 
Sir Tibalt the Slav. 

Although gestes relating to Roland were well-known throughout France 
and Spain since at least the tenth century, later epics associated with Aymeri 
of Narbonne and his son, William of Orange (written ca. 1200 but leg- 
endary from the eleventh century and based on people and places of the 
ninth century) were at least as popular. While they continue to treat the 
Saracens as idol worshipers, in these later epics, the Saracens are even more 
wickedly portrayed and cruelly treated than in the Chanson de Roland. 12 
They are the authors of all evil, hating God and actively seeking Satan. They 


eat their prisoners, betray their oaths, buy and sell their own womenfolk. 
The southern French are no longer as chivalrous with the Saracens as 
Charlemagne was; they ambush them, go in disguise, kill them unarmed, 
imprison them cruelly rather than ransoming them. Aymeri's reputation 
rests on his role as Saracen-killer, and he has no doubt that God will bring 
him victory; it is the victory of Christ over Antichrist. There is the odor of 
the crusade about this epic, particularly since Aymeri is strongly attached to 
the institutional church (building an abbey, fighting for the church, early in 
the epic Charlemagne builds a church and establishes an archbishopric), 
whereas the Chanson de Roland pays virtually no attention to the church. In 
general, throughout the Aymeri of Narbonne/William of Orange epics the 
Christians are strong, brave, generous, lighthearted, pious, loyal, proud, and 
victorious; the "pagans" are wealthy and fight bravely but they are ugly, idol- 
atrous, grotesque, ridiculous, fanatical, and prone to failure. 

On the other hand, it is important to note that these epics never pit 
"Christendom" against Islam; they represent only a portion of Europe, usu- 
ally a region and often a particular kinship network. The Saracens are not 
the only enemies. In the chanson of Aymeri of Narbonne, the Germans are 
also depicted as wicked, vulgar, cowardly, and handily defeated, while the 
Lombards are avaricious, vulgar, cowardly, and treated with great conde- 
scension and mistrust by the Provencals. 13 Similarly, the (seven) epic poems 
associated with William of Orange show inordinate hatred for the person of 
the King of France (under the legendary guise of Louis, Charlemagne's son), 
as well as for the Normans. 

The Saracens in these William epics are not portrayed positively either. 
They are still willing to sacrifice their firstborn sons; they are hideous and 
treacherous, arrogant and cowardly, also wealthy and cultivated (playing chess, 
living in splendid palaces). Their gods (Mahomet, Cahu, Apollyon, and Ter- 
vagant) are earthly idols, and they seem to believe in a kind of dualism — with 
God beyond the earth, Muhammad's law on earth. The following passage 
from Le Couronnement de Louis, while offering a more sophisticated sense of 
Islam than that of the Chanson de Roland, is no less full of prejudice and mis- 
information: "'Miscreant!', said William, 'God will destroy you and crush for- 
ever your unholy rule. For Mohammad — the world knows this is true — was a 
prophet of our Lord Jesu. He crossed the mountains preaching the truth and 
came to Mecca where he abused our faith with drinking and pleasures crude 
and fittingly ended as pigs' food. If you believe in him you are deluded.' The 
pagan said: 'Your lies are base and rude. If you would do as I advised you and 
freely accept Mohammad's truth, I should give you honors and lands to 
rule . . . You will die in torment if you refuse.'" 

Aiol, another chanson de geste, notes that "the Lord God first sent 
Mahon on earth to preach, to exalt his law [but] he perverted the command 


of God." 15 L'entree d'Espagne, a later poem, describes the Prophet as a former 
Christian leader frustrated at being denied the Papacy. 

These negative characteristics have, however, a bit more sophistication 
than those found in the Chanson de Roland. The Christianity injected in 
these epics has likewise become slightly more sophisticated and didactic. 
Where Roland brandishes a relic-laden sword, William, prior to his battles, 
tells himself biblical tales as a form of prayer. Aiol is interspersed with refer- 
ences to monks, priests, pilgrimages, baptisms, prayers, and a variety of 
saints and biblical figures. 

Although there is a consistency to the portraits of Muslims in the me- 
dieval epic tradition, there are shifts. Paul Bancourt argues that, by the last 
quarter of the twelfth century, the portrait of the loyal Saracen grew in pop- 
ularity, as, for example, in Aspremont, the epics associated with Fierabras 
and in the Chevalerie d'Ogior. 17 Increasingly, also, conversion from hea- 
thenism on the part of the Saracens is emphasized. 18 This is particularly 
true of those epics associated with Fierabras or, in the Middle English ver- 
sion, the Sowdan of Babylon. 19 In this epic tradition, the Saracens remain 
heathen, with idols of gold but the Alkaron as their bible, priests and bish- 
ops as attendants, and Mahound as a mighty man with the ability to draw 
souls to him in the afterlife. In the end, the Saracen gods fail Fierabras, and 
he is baptized. 

Perhaps the greatest shift of all occurs in the version of the William of Or- 
ange epic (Willehalm) offered by Wolfram von Eschenbach, a German 
knight writing in the early thirteenth century. Wolfram's knowledge of east- 
ern geography seems reasonably accurate, but nothing in the poem suggests 
much knowledge of Islam. Negative statements abound — the pagans were 
"covered with horn front and back, they didn't have a human voice: the 
sound from their mouths was the same as a hound or the bellow of a cow." 20 
And yet, despite his negative portrayal of the Saracens, in an eloquent speech 
placed in the mouth of the female heroine, Wolfram writes: 

The first man whom God created was a heathen. Now believe that Elijah and 
Enoch, though they were heathens, have been saved from damnation. Noah, 
who was saved in the ark, was also a heathen. . . . The heathens are not all des- 
tined for damnation. We know it to be true that all children born of mothers 
since the time of Eve were born incontestably heathens, even though baptism 
surrounds the child. Baptized women carry heathen children even though the 
child is surrounded by baptism . . . We are all formerly heathens. 21 

This remarkably tolerant attitude sits uneasily with his damning descrip- 
tions of Saracens. Wolfram seems to suggest, simultaneously, that Saracens 
need to be converted, that they are damned, and that, even without baptism, 


they can be saved. It may be the individualism and varying voices of Wol- 
fram's protagonists that enable him to expound such diverse views on salva- 
tion; the fact that he did not finish his epic merely deepens one's perplexity. 

In several tales where one might expect descriptions of Saracens, there is 
scant attention paid. One such is the Pelerinage de Charlemagne, probably 
produced in the late twelfth century. 22 Here attention is wholly on the court 
at Constantinople and a farcical competition between its king and Charle- 
magne, whose character appears problematic — childish, self-centered, and 
flawed as a warrior and religious leader. Another, Aucassin et Nicolette, de- 
rived from Arabic sources and compiled in France in the early thirteenth 
century, is wholly concerned with the love affair of the two protagonists. 23 
And medieval German literature, with the notable exception of Willehalm, 
rarely places emphasis on either crusades or Saracens, 2 although the cru- 
sading experience is sometimes touched upon, often in chivalric courtly 
terms rather than in terms of holy war. In the late twelfth-century Herzog 
Ernst, for example, Duke Ernst is banished for seven years, during which 
time he travels to the Holy Land to fight. But his adventures focus on the 
journey there, not the encounter with Muslims, and could as easily have 
taken place outside a crusading context. 25 

There are other epics, apart from those mentioned above, in which Mus- 
lims are neither so peripheral nor so harshly treated. This is evident in many 
of the Spanish epic romances — the romance and legend of Rodrigo, the last 
Gothic king, 2 the Romancero de Barnardo del Carpio, 27 the Poem of El Cid, 
and Amadis de Gaula. This tradition was to eventually merge with the 
Roland tradition in Ludovico Oriosto's Orlando Furioso. But one must be 
careful, even in this relatively more generous legendary tradition. For all 
that the Moors in El Cid are his allies, are treated generously by El Cid once 
they are defeated, and are worthy leaders and warriors, in the end El Cid is 
perfectly willing to slaughter them without much provocation, deceive 
them, destroy their mosques, force them into exile, and turn Valencia into 
a Christian city. 

More wholeheartedly positive are the romance epics and heroic tales as- 
sociated with Salah al-Din, who becomes a chivalric hero, progressively 
more French as the legends bring him to France, traveling incognito, and 
foist a French noble mother upon him. 28 

There is one more epic romance, which marries the epic traditions of 
Fierabras with that of the Arthurian legend of Percival and the Holy Grail, 
that is of interest for its sympathetic rendering of Muslims. In general, the 
Arthurian legends, of which Percival forms a part, evolved independent of 
any Islamic elements, deriving from Celtic, British, Breton, and French 
sources. 29 But in the first half of the thirteenth century Wolfram von Es- 
chenbach, retold the story of Percival and the Holy Grail. 30 He based his 


story loosely on Chretien de Troyes's unfinished romance, completing it by 
making Percival, eventually, king of the Grail Castle. Among the oddities of 
this story are the first two chapters that tell the adventures of Percival's fa- 
ther, Gahmuret, who becomes a mercenary in the Middle East where he falls 
in love with the Saracen queen of Zazamanc. Although an infidel and very 
dark, she is beautiful, affectionate, loyal, and faithful. By her Gahmuret has 
a son, a half-brother to Percival, named Feirefiz who is born pied, both black 
and white, grows to govern an enormous kingdom, to command 25 armies 
(of which none understood another's tongue), and to become incredibly 
wealthy. He, "the noble infidel," then becomes a member of the Round 
Table and a part of the Grail company. He is literate, and, after being bap- 
tized, is able to view the Grail and marry the sister of the fisher-king. Re- 
turning to India they bear a son named Prester John, and Feirefiz has letters 
sent throughout the world describing the Christian life of India. 

In chapter 9, Wolfram says that his tale is based on a story told by a 
Provencal poet, Kyot, who "saw this Tale of Parzival written in the heathen- 
ish tongue (written by a learned astronomer named Flegetanis), and what he 
retold in French I shall not be too dull to recount in German." This is un- 
likely. Beside the fact that it was a commonplace to cite an unknown source, 
Wolfram displays almost no knowledge of the Arab world beyond mentions 
of Arabic gold, dark faces, marvelous brocades, the Arabic names of some 
medicines and stones and some knowledge of military tactics (mounted 
archery, Greek fire, and Parthian tactics of wheeling and retreating). Feire- 
fiz's gods are Jupiter and Juno. 

Eighty-six copies of this manuscript survive, 44 of which date from the 
thirteenth century. It was enormously popular. There is an element of 
broad-mindedness and tolerance in this tale — whether directed toward 
Muslims or women or the French. With regard to the virtuous heathen or 
Muslim, Wolfram says: "If in later days he died unbaptized, may He who 
works all wonders have mercy upon him!" Wolfram seems to subscribe to 
the idea that we were all pagans once, and his portraits of pagans are sym- 
pathetic. This is reinforced by several passages that speak of God's unfath- 
omable mercy, as well as by Wolfram's tolerance of the unbaptized in his 
Willehalm epic (see above). 

In this regard Wolfram is echoing a great many other medieval authors 
who dealt with the problem of the virtuous pagan — the unbeliever who is 
nonetheless saved. 31 This idea was expounded upon by Roger Bacon, who 
exalts the morals of unbelievers as opposed to Christians, and concludes that 
both Greek and Arab philosophers had preludia fidei, perhaps sufficient for 
salvation. Dante's Divine Comedy includes both pagans and named heretics 
in Paradise, while three Muslims rest in a comfortable, almost paradise-like 
limbo along with other virtuous pagans from the classical world. Ramon 


Llull states that the Muslim who dies without sin and in good faith will suf- 
fer only bodily but not spiritual pains in the next world. 32 William Lang- 
land's personification of Anima in Piers Plowman^ hopes that the Saracens 
and Jews will be saved. The fourteenth century English poem called St. 
Erkenwald tells of a pagan judge saved by St. Erkenwald's prayers. 3 John 
Wycliffe, in his De fide Catholica, argues that men from any sect can be 
saved, even among the Saracens, 35 and Uthred of Boldon, in the 1360s, sug- 
gested that all persons receive their final judgment at the moment of death 
and with direct vision of God, that judgment depending upon their response 
to that experience. 3 The mystics of the later Middle Ages were troubled by 
this question, and Dame Julian of Norwich (1343—1413) responds by con- 
cluding that humans cannot grasp God's great mercy and should not pre- 
sume to think that non-Christians will be damned. 37 Her contemporary, 
Briggitta of Sweden, seems quite sure that virtuous pagans are saved. 

This tolerant view was not the view of many crusaders; nor, in the final 
analysis, was it the view of the papacy. Although some of the elements that 
went into the idea of a papally-led war against the Muslims can be traced to 
the ninth century, it was the papacy of Gregory VII (1073—1085) that linked 
it with an army on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. 38 Gregory planned an expedition 
that he himself would lead in response to the fact that "Christians beyond the 
sea . . . are being destroyed by the heathen with unheard-of slaughter and are 
daily being slain like so many sheep . . ." 39 And yet, in a letter to the Muslim 
ruler of Mauretania circa 1076, Gregory writes, "This affection we and you 
owe to each other in a more peculiar way than to people of other races because 
we worship and confess the same God though in diverse forms and daily praise 
and adore him as the creator and ruler of this world. For, in the words of the 
Apostle, 'He is our peace who hath made both one." Gregory treated his 
own bishops and many European kings far harsher, judging them as damned 
souls for their disobedience, Christian or not. 

A note of hysteria, however, attends the First Crusade and is apparent in 
the variant versions of Pope Urban II's famous speech at the Council of 
Clermont in 1095 that initiated the movement. There he described the 
atrocities of the Turks in the Holy Land in inflammatory language, paint- 
ing word pictures of Christians being slaughtered (and gutted) within their 
own churches. Urban linked his call for an expedition to both spiritual and 
material benefits. The kind of electrifying preaching that followed, stress- 
ing the coming day of Judgment and the city of Jerusalem, incited people 
further, and it is hardly surprising that massacres of the Jews occurred in 
due course along the pilgrimage route (mainly along the Rhine), and that, 
once Jerusalem was occupied, the crusaders should engage in a massacre of 
such proportions that, as Fulcher of Chartres put it, "If you had been there 
your feet would have been stained to the ankles in the blood of the slain." 


Or, as the anonymous knight who wrote the Gesta Francorum notes, "No 
one has ever seen or heard of such a slaughter of pagans, for they were 
burned on pyres like pyramids, and no one save God alone knows how 

1 "44 

many there were. 

There is much that can be said with regard to the crusades and relations 
between Muslims and Christians, but, in general, better knowledge of Islam 
in the West was not one of the results. There were, as is well known from nu- 
merous anecdotes, differing levels of toleration of Muslims and Muslim cul- 
ture among the Christians in the Holy Land. But Western Christians were 
more likely to hear legends, many of which were brought back by the Franks 
who had been to the Holy Land — legends that Ida, the widowed countess of 
Austria, a crusader in 1101, was captured and married to a Saracen, by whom 
she had a child, Zengi, who was to retake Edessa from the Franks in 1 144. 
Legends that Eleanor of Aquitaine had had an affair with Salah al-Din (who 
was a boy at the time) when she accompanied her husband Louis VII on the 
Second Crusade. Legends of Salah al-Din's chivalrous, virtuous behavior 
vis-a-vis Richard the Lion-Hearted. Legends of the relations between the 
Templars and Salah al-Din — for example, that the Templars had captured 
and mistreated his nephew dishonestly, causing Salah al-Din much anguish 
and accounting for his harsh treatment of the Templars after the battle of 
Hattin in 1 187. Legends that Salah al-Din was a descendant of the daughter 
of the Count of Ponthieu in northern France, or that he baptized himself on 
his deathbed. Legends of Richard the Lion-Hearted's prowess in killing 
Saracens, and his miraculous release from prison in Germany on his leg- 
endary trip home. There was a legend that the Dome of the Rock in 
Jerusalem housed Muslim idols and that, at Mecca, an apostate monk named 
Nicholas was worshipped. Even Thomas of Becket was given a legendary 
Saracen mother, and the various legends associated with the Templars — that 
they used magic, that they were wolves in sheep's clothing, that they sought 
gold, that they were keepers of the Grail — are still with us today. 

One of the most intriguing rumors that swept crusading Europe was that 
of Prester John, a mysterious imperial Christian ruler in the East. In 1145, 
Bishop Otto of Freising wrote that, "We also met the recently anointed 
Bishop of Gabul from Syria. . . . He said that a few years ago a certain John, 
King and priest of the people living beyond the Persians and Armenians in 
the extreme Orient, professing Christianity, though of the Nestorian persua- 
sion, marched in war against the . . . king of Medes and then Persians, and 
conquered their capital. ..." A bit later a letter in Arabic appeared from 
Prester John, written to the Byzantine emperor, in which he detailed his king- 
dom of the "Three Indies," describing unlimited wealth, magical mirrors that 
made you invisible, exotic animals, and men with eyes in back and front. This 
letter, and this kingdom, excited Christian hopes again at the time of the 


failed Fifth Crusade (1221), when two letters from Damietta (one of which 
was from the papal legate) equated the army of Prester John with the Mon- 
gol attacks on Persia, raising hopes of a Christian victory. 50 Marco Polo de- 
scribed the origins of the Mongols as coming from Manchuria, particularly 
the region near Lake Baikal, where they were tributaries to a great lord "that 
Prester John, of whose great empire all the world speaks." 51 

The origin of the Prester John legend most probably comes from the fact 
that several tribes of Turks and Mongols in the western steppes of Asia con- 
verted to Nestorian Christianity 52 in the eleventh century. Some western 
Mongol tribes and the Khitan rulers of China were influenced by Nestori- 
anism. When the Liao (Khitan) empire in China fell, one of the rulers, the 
Gur Khan Yelu Dashi, led a united army of tribes into Persia, successfully 
defeating the Seljuks in 1141, and finally settling in Turkestan with a capi- 
tal at Balasagun. Although Yelu Dashi was not himself Christian, he was sur- 
rounded by Nestorian Christians and may have been the origin of the Prester 
John legend. Europeans looked long and hard for Prester John's kingdom, 
convinced for some time that the Mongols were associated with it, some- 
times imagining that it was in China or perhaps India, then shifting its lo- 
cation to Africa and particularly Ethiopia. When the Portuguese began to 
explore the West African coast in the fifteenth century, one of their goals was 
to find the kingdom of Prester John. For centuries the hope did not die that 
this kingdom, with its wealth and magic, would join with the West to push 
back the expanding network of Islamic kingdoms stretching from Spain to 
India, and to reconquer the Holy Land. 

Side by side with the legends was a growing body of more or less accu- 
rate information about Islam. Already, by the eleventh century, several 
sources with somewhat more accurate information with regard to Islam en- 
tered western Europe, particularly a narrative by Theophanes, reproduced in 
the works of Anastasius the Librarian and Landulf Sagax, that describes the 
rise of Muhammad and the history of the caliphate in its first 150 years. 
In this account, Muhammad is presented as a prophet, albeit as a pseudo- 
prophet; Islamic ideas of paradise are detailed, and an emphasis is placed on 
the role of compassion in Islam. John of Damascus, writing from the Or- 
thodox Christian viewpoint in the eighth century, in his polemic against the 
"heresy of the Ishmaelites," read the Qur'an in the Arabic and made an ef- 
fort to understand and transmit accurately Quranic concepts and Islamic 
theology. 5 Western and Eastern writers who used these accounts twisted 
them, making Muhammad into a god and Muslims into fools. 55 Benjamin 
Kedar concludes, "These responses to the Anastasian stimulus demonstrate 
that confrontation with relatively accurate information did not necessarily 
lead to its absorption. Time and again, the new data failed to modify the 
writers' preconceptions; on the contrary, the preconceptions dictated the ex- 


tent to which the data were absorbed. Nor did the availability of correct in- 
formation guarantee its acceptance by all the learned, to say nothing of the 
unlearned, of that time." 5 

A number of twelfth-century Western writers mention Saracen 
monotheism, however, as well as Muhammad's status as a prophet rather 
than a god. 57 Guibert of Nogent, early in the twelfth century, notes that 
Muhammad was one through whom the divine laws are transmitted. In 
1127, William of Malmesbury wrote that the Saracens do not worship 
"Maumeth" as a God, "as some people think." 58 Otto of Freising, in his 
Chronica for the 1 140s, attacked the archbishop of Salzburg for speaking of 
Muslim idols when, in fact, the Saracens worship one God. Later, in the 
1270s, Humbert of Romans, one of the greatest proponents of a crusade 
and a papal propagandist, wrote that many Christians, not only laymen but 
clerics as well, believe that the Saracens consider Mahumet their god, 
"which, however, is false." 59 The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine, 
written ca. 1260 and perhaps the most influential source for preaching and 
private devotional reading in the Middle Ages, is quite clear that Muslims 
confess one God, who has neither equal nor like, and Muhammad is his 
prophet. When, however, the patriarch of Jerusalem in 1204 and the 
grand masters of the Knights Hospitaller and Templar asserted to the pope 
that the "Saracens adore their God Mahometh," it becomes clear that 
there was little correlation between geography and accuracy, little agree- 
ment among the learned, and a persistent ignorance. 

Gradually a larger amount of accurate information about Islam became 
available. Many scientific treatises were translated, although they are uni- 
formly attributed to Arabs, not Saracens. Peter the Venerable, Abbot of 
Cluny, commissioned a translation of the Qur'an, and it could be found 
in many European libraries in a translation by Robert of Ketton, archdeacon 
of Pamplona, that did not notably misrepresent Islamic beliefs. Although 
the translation has been characterized negatively by Marie d'Alverny, this 
is primarily because Robert of Ketton adds nuances derived from the glosses 
of Muslim interpretations in an effort to reflect the Muslim understanding 
of the text. A more literal translation, done by Mark of Toledo, was avail- 
able but less popular and perhaps less reflective of an Islamic understand- 
ing. The influence of Robert of Ketton's translation goes far beyond the 
manuscript tradition itself. Vincent of Beauvais, in his enormously popular 
Speculum historiale, was to extract from this compilation the life of Muham- 
mad, a history of the Qur'an, a description of the beliefs of Islam, parts of 
the Risala (the letter from a Christian and the letter of a Saracen), all of 
which give a certain sense of balance to his treatment of Islam. 

Other lives of Muhammad were translated, although they included 
much legendary material, both from Muslim and Christian sources, such as 


the account of Muhammad's ascent into the afterlife. Many commentators 
now understood that Muslims revered Jesus and Mary as well as the Old 
Testament prophets, that they were strongly opposed to the Trinity, the in- 
carnation, and the use of images, and insistent on the unity of God, that 
Muhammad has successfully struggled against paganism and given Islam a 
developed theology of the afterlife, and, generally, that Muhammad had 
claimed to be a prophet but not divine. Nonetheless, virtually all Western 
medieval treatments of Islam present damning and distorted information. 

The most obvious line of attack was Muhammad himself, who was vari- 
ously portrayed as an epileptic, a magician, the Beast of the Apocalypse, las- 
civious, ambitious, money-grubbing, political, and ready to war and rob. 
They argued that his revelations met his personal needs, that he tricked those 
around him into believing them, and that he died an unnatural (unsaintly) 
death (by poison, being trampled by pigs, eaten by dogs, etc.). Many believed 
that Muhammad had been taught, originally, by an apostate or heretical 
Christian monk. 70 Alan of Lille referred to Muhammad's monstrous life, 
more monstrous sect, most monstrous death. Norman Daniel, in his revised 
Islam and the West, details the Western attack on Muhammad as a prophet, 
including, for example, pointing to contradictions in the Qur'an. 71 In gen- 
eral, medieval Christians seemed to believe that they could discredit Islam by 
discrediting Muhammad. Even the Golden Legend, probably the most influ- 
ential book of its time, 72 which judiciously recounts and then eschews some 
of the legends surrounding Muhammad (e.g., that he tricked the people by 
having a dove descend to pick out seeds from his ear) includes a description 
of Muhammad as a false prophet who blended truth with error. It repeats the 
legend that the works of the Qur'an were dictated by Sergius, either an apos- 
tate Nestorian monk or perhaps a Jacobite archdeacon, as well as the legend 
that Muhammad was an epileptic whose authority derived from his marriage 
to Khadija. On the other hand, Jacobus includes much that is accurate re- 
garding Islamic religious practices and doctrines. 73 

As the crusades progressed and Europeans explored the East, they became 
increasingly aware of the extent of Islam; it was particularly galling that 
Islam had somehow achieved territorial and religious control over formerly 
Christianized areas such as Syria, Egypt, northern Africa, and, of course, by 
the end of the thirteenth century, the Holy Land once more. With the con- 
version of the Mongols coming on the heels of the failure of the crusades, the 
sense of frustration and antagonism grew rather than diminished with the 
growth of available information. Increasingly Christians began to see Islam as 
the single-most significant obstacle to Christianity, and, contrary to all ex- 
pectations, a devilish apostasy of Christianity that was growing, not dimin- 
ishing. The use of force against Muslims was justified — and on the highest 
authority of God. Humbert of Romans, writing for the Council of Lyons in 


1274, argued that the Muslims were culpable in the highest degree; the 
church had the right to wield a sword against both heretics and rebels, and 
the Muslims were both. 75 Roger Bacon, in writing to the pope in the 1260s, 
supported the prophecy that, "the Greeks will return to the obedience of the 
Roman Church, the Tartars for the most part will be converted to the Faith 
and the Saracens will be destroyed." 7 Although Muslims were allowed to live 
within Christian territories, canon law decreed that they wear distinctive 
clothing; no Christians could be their servants, nor could Christians eat with 
them. They were forbidden to go out on certain Christian holy days; they 
could not serve in public office nor engage in trade with their fellow Muslims 
outside Christendom, and after 1312, they could not practice public prayer 
in Christian lands. 77 These intolerant attitudes and practices (applied also to 
the Jews) contrast rather remarkably with the degree of toleration western in- 
tellectuals extended to Arabic writings, commentaries, and translations. 

They also contrast remarkably with the attitudes of some Christians who 
could appreciate Islamic virtues and argue that Muslims took their religion 
more seriously than the Christians did, or that Muslims fasted and gave to 
the poor more rigorously than the Christians did. 78 As early as the late 
twelfth century Peter, the Chanter, writing a manual for preachers and 
teachers (the Verbum Abbreviation), commented that the "sobrietas Ma- 
hometicorum hodie superat subrietatem Christianorum." 79 Sermons from 
the thirteenth century on suggest that audiences for sermons were question- 
ing the extent to which God was on the side of the Christians rather than 
the Muslims. 80 Travelers in the Middle East were often impressed with the 
kindness, generosity, strictness, and honesty of Muslim culture, while they 
were offended by the call to prayer, Muslim marriage practices, and the Mus- 
lim rejection of lifelong asceticism and celibacy. 81 

Even the best informed of writers could not normally get beyond the veil 
of hostility to Islam. Marco Polo's Travels (1298), although mixed with a 
dash of romance and Frankish-rype battle descriptions, is, in the main, a 
sober account of one man's 20-year journey through central Asia, China, 
around southeast Asia, through southern India, and into the Persian Gulf. 
Marco wrote from the vantage point of an administrator and a merchant- 
seaman. His attitude toward the Mongols was tolerant and even full of ad- 
miration. He was also tolerant of "idolaters," primarily Buddhists and 
Hindus, praising their austerity and their humaneness, their monks and 
their yogis. He mentions Nestorian Christians without much concern for 
doctrinal differences. His only prejudice seems to be against the Muslims. 
He details, with obvious pleasure, the overthrow of the caliph in Baghdad in 
1258 by Hulagu, leader of the western Mongol horde. He describes Muslims 
as treacherous, prone to great sinfulness, and as "dogs not fit to lord it over 
Christians." As to their doctrine, he reports that "the accursed doctrine of 


the Saracens [is that] every sin is accounted a lawful act even to the killing 
of any man who is not of their creed." 82 

William, the archbishop of Tyre, was born ca. 1130 and grew up in 
Jerusalem, spent 20 years studying in the West and then returned to the Holy 
Land. He wrote several works, one a history of the Muslim world, the other 
a history of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, also entitled A History of Deeds Done 
Beyond the Sea. The history of the Muslim world is now lost and seems to 
have been used by very few in the west, while William's Deeds (or Chronicon) 
was quite popular. 8 ' 1 William's main concerns were to analyze the reasons for 
the failure of the crusades in the East, and to propagandize the need for a re- 
turn to spirituality, faith, and a strengthened military. In part he was writing 
a tract for Western readers, arguing that Jerusalem could be saved. He, there- 
fore, exalted the role of the King of Jerusalem and emphasized the role of the 
church in the East. His focus of attack was not so much the Muslims as it was 
the papacy and the Templars. Although only nine copies of the Latin text are 
extant, it was very popular in the thirteenth century in a French and then a 
Spanish translation. William's own attitudes toward Muslims were mixed. He 
exalts Christian triumphs over the Muslims and takes on an increasingly pes- 
simistic tone as Muslim victories in the twelfth century accumulated. He had 
a positive view of Salah al-Din as a man of genius, wise in counsel, a vigor- 
ous warrior, and unusually generous. He sometimes passes on extremely good 
information — for example, his description of the nature of the Dome of the 
Rock — and at the same time he scarcely seems to understand Muslim theol- 
ogy and the descent of Islam (particularly Ali's relation to Muhammad). At 
one point he states that "Muhammad broke out into such madness that he 
dared to lie that he was a prophet." He never refers to the Saracens as pagans, 
however, and portrays Nur-al-Din as, albeit a persecutor of the Christian 
faith, a just prince nonetheless, and a man who feared God "according to the 
superstitious traditions of that people." 8 

Once translated into French, William's Chronicon attracted continuators 
who carried the history into the mid-thirteenth century. 85 While the rela- 
tionship between these various continuators still needs unraveling, the con- 
tinuations of William's Chronicon offer a much less biased account of the 
Saracens and particularly of Salah al-Din. Focusing largely on the chronol- 
ogy of events, the Lyon continuation, in particular, shows the Saracens in a 
generally positive light. 8 Although it refers to the Islamic world as pagan 
and records those occasions when the Saracens murdered Christians, the 
portrait of Salah al-Din is one of a reasonable, brave, courteous, and char- 
itable leader, while the Saracens, generally, keep their promises and help 
Christians when they are not at war. In contrast, the Greeks are treacher- 
ous, the Poitevins untrustworthy, the Germans brutish, and Richard I "de- 
vious and greedy," while the Templars give bad advice and treat the people 


poorly. At one point, the Crusaders "encountered greater cruelty among 
those who called themselves Christians [the Greeks in Cyprus] than they 
would have found with the unbelieving Saracens." 87 On the other hand, 
the Templars after the Battle of Hattin, faced with a choice of conversion 
or martyrdom, are quite clear that "... the law of Muhammad is false and 
deceitful." 88 

By the twelfth century there were some voices raised, not so much in 
protest of crusading violence, but in favor of preaching and the peaceful 
conversion of Muslims, although these voices never extended very far. 89 
Peter the Venerable, for example, attached a polemic to the Ketton trans- 
lation of the Quran that was intended to promote conversion, although it 
never circulated among Muslims and was not of much interest to Chris- 
tians either. 

Roger Bacon, an exact contemporary of Marco Polo's (ca. 1220—1292), 
also promoted preaching. Bacon is generally known for his wide-ranging 
knowledge and his scientific mindset. Although he may not really have 
known Arabic, he knew more about Arabic science than any man of his 
time; he exalted the role of philosophy and of scientific knowledge, arguing 
that all philosophy (whether Arabic, classical, or Hebrew) proved the truth 
of Christianity and that all science (whether Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, 
Chaldean, etc.) was universal and cohesive. This universal science, drawn 
from all tradition, was also useful; it would deepen spiritual understanding 
and, applied in a practical fashion, could be used to spread Christianity, e.g., 
by using burning glasses to win battles, by changing the air and hence the 
complexion of enemies (biological warfare?). Bacon was, therefore, not at all 
opposed to crusades, although he did not think they had been very effective. 
More effective, Bacon argued in his Opus Mains, would be the learning of 
languages and of philosophy in order to convert the infidels. He says that 
war does not succeed, for sometimes the Christians lose, and if they win, 
they only enrage the Muslims more. As a result, "they [the Muslims] are be- 
coming impossible to convert in many parts of the world, and especially be- 
yond the sea. Moreover, faith did not enter this world by arms but through 
the simplicity of preaching, as is evident. And we have often heard and we 
are certain that many with but an imperfect knowledge of these languages, 
usuing poor translators, yet made great progress by preaching, and converted 
many to the Christian faith." 90 

This was to be the program promoted by Ramon Llull. Born in Majorca 
in 1232, where he grew up among Muslims, Jews, and Christians, he lived 
a worldly, ambitious life until a conversion experience prompted him to give 
up wealth, position, family, and various amours and to begin the program 
that would dominate the rest of his life — writing books for the conversion 
of Jews and Muslims to Christianity and establishing monastery schools 


where future missionaries could learn Hebrew and Arabic. With his intel- 
lectual curiosity and driving desire to convert, he produced, in over 200 sur- 
viving works, a philosophical-theological system that offered a key to all 
knowledge and a methodology for proving the truth of Christianity and par- 
ticularly the Trinity. Llull's "Art," as it is called, is highly original, but influ- 
enced by Neoplatonism, by Arabic writers (al-Ghazzali, in particular), 
possibly by the Jewish Cabala, and by Western mystical traditions (such as 
the Victorines and St. Bonaventure). In contrast to Bacon, who wrote in 
Latin and for a select circle, Llull wrote in Arabic and Catalan, often in verse, 
with a clear intention of simplifying and popularizing his ideas. Llull created 
a trinitarian logic that he believed mirrored the real world. That logic, which 
he called combinatory art and which was expressed by letters and figures, 
analogies and congruences, could then be applied to all knowledge. 91 Llull's 
"logic," which seemed irrefutable to him, had relatively little impact on the 
Muslims he met in his many travels in northern Africa and the eastern 
Mediterranean. Nor was he any more successful with his school project, de- 
spite spending nearly 50 years petitioning popes and princes for support. 92 
Llull had a synthetic mind and, to some modern scholars, an empathetic 
mind. He understood Islam well, read works of Islamic theology, and carried 
on his campaign without rancor or harshness. He believed in free, not 
forced, conversions, disagreeing with the usual missionary efforts that fo- 
cused on disproving Islam rather than proving Christianity. Although there 
were times in his life when he supported the crusades, most of Hull's writ- 
ings advocate a return to the peaceful missionary methods of the apostles. 
Legendarily, he is supposed to have died in north Africa (in 1316), stoned 
while preaching in a town square. 93 

The papacy also had spurts of missionary fervor (especially under Inno- 
cent IV in the 1240s), but these were limited in contact, bedeviled by poor 
relations with the Greek Orthodox Church, conflicts within the mendicant 
orders, lack of training of missionaries, and the basic problem of the need 
to bend, doctrinally and culturally, in order to realistically achieve conver- 
sions. When Constantinople fell in 1453, the question of reinvigorating 
both crusades and missions became more urgent. Pope Pius II (1458—1468) 
initiated preparations for a crusade while simultaneously entertaining more 
peaceful means. John of Segovia wrote to Pius II to promote his idea of a 
conference between Muslims and Christians to reconcile differences. 9 
Nicholas of Cusa wrote Pius to suggest a detailed study of the Quran in 
order to sift out the trust and to promote a unity of religion. 95 In the event, 
Pius II decided to address a letter directly to Muhammed II, Sultan of the 
Turks (1432—1481), urging him to convert. This eloquent letter, written in 
Latin and intended to persuade, has survived in a number of copies and ap- 
pears to have been one of the more popular of Pius's writings. In it he takes 


issue with Islam, with its vision of the afterlife, its approval of polygamy 
and divorce, and its prohibition of any possible dispute with regard to 
Muhammad's revelations. Pius displays an understanding of the Qur'an 
and its views on the afterlife as well as its views on Jews and Christians, but 
the bulk of his letter is an exposition of scripture — an attempt to point out 
the congruences between the Old and New Testaments and the obvious 
truth of Christianity given the state of man's soul, the nature of God, and 
man's spiritual needs. Pius is condescending with regard to Islam and full 
of invective when speaking of Muhammad. His major argument is that 
Islam raises false expectations of salvation while allowing vice, and that 
Muhammad was a fraud and possibly a heretic. 9 He believed that Islam 
lacked miracles and was justified only by its willingness to resort to force. 
Although reasonable in many respects, the letter offers no tolerance or un- 
derstanding of the person of the Prophet or his revelation. The underlying 
assumption is that the debate, once joined, would clearly show the truth of 
Christianity and the falsity of Islam. 

The limits of ecclesiastical tolerance also were reached in the fifteenth 
century by the circle around a Franciscan friar named Alonso de Mella, in 
Castile. In 1442, he was in trouble with the church for advocating the free 
interpretation of the Bible. When some of his associates were burned in 
Castile, Frater Alonso fled to Muslim Granada. Soon after arriving he wrote 
a long letter to King Juan II of Castile, asking for a public reconsideration 
of his ideas. "We . . . being in this kingdom of Granada, have been carefully 
examining and inquiring into the faith which the Muslims hold and profess. 
We find that they are not unbelievers, as is said at home, but rather we found 
them to be sincere believers in the one true God, creator. . . ." Frater Alonso 
was not welcomed back to Castile, and he died in Muslim lands. 97 Frater 
Alonso — whose sympathies represent the extreme of a range of attitudes ex- 
pressed in the literature of the Middle Ages — had clearly come up against 
the limits of tolerance for Islam in Christian Spain. 

This essay has presented some of this range among a variety of texts 
and has argued, by implication, for a more nuanced understanding of me- 
dieval Western views of Islam. Specifically, it has suggested that the chan- 
sons de geste do not necessarily project either ignorance or complete and 
deliberate fiction; rather, there is a base of reality behind the epics. On the 
other hand, the prejudices against Saracens in these chansons might well 
be viewed in relation to a spectrum of chauvinistic attitudes regarding a 
variety of "others." This essay also suggests the need to examine further 
the role of legend, regional differences, and a greater range of texts with 
popular resonance, where even the absence of Saracens (particularly in 
some crusading texts) should be of interest. Among those texts examined 
in this chapter, descriptions of the Saracens range from the chivalrous to 


the devilish, from religious to sacrilegious, while a growing number of 
voices promote relations between Muslims and Christians through efforts 
at peaceful conversion and a striking number of thoughtful voices ques- 
tion the doctrine of the non-salvation of "pagans." 


* Revised version of a paper presented to a conference on "Images of the 
Other: Europe and the Muslim World before 1700" at the American Uni- 
versity in Cairo, Spring, 1995. 

1. While there is a case to be made for differentiating popular literature (chan- 
sons de geste, fabliaux, perhaps even vernacular histories and romances) 
from the more official Latin literature of letters, chronicles, canon law, and 
theology, in general, learned literature incorporated popular attitudes, and 
popular literature often reflected learned concerns. See John van Engen, 
"The Christian Middle Ages as an Historiographical Problem," American 
Historical Review 91 (1986): 519—52. There is a great variety of fantastic and 
legendary material that survives in the learned literature as well as a great 
deal of sophisticated information in the popular literature, all of it mixed 
with a surprising range of negative and positive views on Islam. 

2. See the introductory chapter above. It has been traditional to argue that the 
Western view of Islam derives from negative Byzantine treatments of Islam, 
particularly that of Theophanes. But Theophanes was not totally negative; 
nor was he particularly expansive on Islam. Recent work on Byzantine views 
on Islam emphasizes a range of perspectives that could be nuanced, sophis- 
ticated, and also more accommodating than has been thought. Daniel Sahas, 
"The Art and Non-Art of Byzantine Polemics: Patterns of Refutation in 
Byzantine Anti-Islamic Literature," in Conversion and Continuity, ed. M. 
Gervers and Ramzi Jibran Bikhazi (Toronto, 1990), 55—73; and David R. 
Blanks, in "Byzantium and the Muslim World," Images of the Other: Europe 
and the Muslim World before 1700, ed. David R. Blanks (Cairo, 1997), 
109—21. Blanks analyzes the cross-cultural contacts between Christians and 
Muslims, with particular emphasis on the accepting attitudes of the Byzan- 
tine epic Digenis Akritas (the Half-Breed Border Lord). 

3. For a recent discussion of the dating, see Luis Cortes, "Date et manuscrits 
de la Chanson," in La Chanson de Roland: Edition etablie apres le manuscrit 
d'Oxford, ed. L. Cortes (Mayenne, 1994), 142-46. 

4. For the historical background, see Barton Sholod, Charlemagne in Spain 
(Geneva, 1966): 39—43; Eugene Vance, Reading the Song of Roland (Engle- 
wood Cliffs, N.J., 1970), app. II; Paul Aebischer, Prehistoire et protohistoire 
du Roland d'Oxford (Frank Verne, 1972), 35-92. 

5. Similar legends have developed around other great defeats in history — the de- 
struction of Troy, the defeat of the Britons by the Anglo-Saxons (which gave 
rise to the Arthurian legends), the German defeat in World War I, the Amer- 


ican defeat in Vietnam, to name a few. It is interesting that the defeat of the 
crusaders at Hattin in 1 1 87 and the subsequent failure of the Third Crusade 
to retake Jerusalem have been obscured in western literature by the legendary 
exploits of Richard the Lion-hearted, whose romance includes some of the 
more gruesome descriptions of crusading treatment of Muslim captives. 

6. Norman Daniel, Heroes and Saracens: An Interpretation of the Chansons de 
Geste (Edinburgh, 1984), chp. 2 passim; Paul Bancourt, Les Muselmans dans 
les Chansons de Geste du Cycle du Roi (Provence, 1982), 2 vols; and Barbara 
P. Edmonds, "Le portrait des Sarrasins dans la Chanson de Roland," The 
French Review 44, no. 5 (1971): 870—88 all argue that the Chanson de Roland 
presents the Saracens, fundamentally, as a mirror of Frankish society. W. W. 
Comfort, "The Saracens in the French Epic," Proceedings of the Modern Lan- 
guage Association, 55 (1940): 628—59 is more interested in the extent to 
which the Saracens represent something exotic, marvelous, and romantic — 
also a religious enemy, not too very different from the Franks, and relatively 
benign. Paul Bancourt suggests a more mixed portrait, with some of the 
Saracens full of pride — cruel and perfidious, while others are loyal, generous, 
and courtly, but he does not explore the full range of negative traits. 

7. See especially C. Meredith Jones, "The Conventional Saracen of the 'Songs 
of Geste,'" Speculum 17 (1942): 201-25. R. W. Southern, Western Views of 
Islam in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass., 1962), argues that such an er- 
roneous idea could perpetuate itself as legend based on the ignorance of the 
audience for popular literature. Norman Daniel, Heroes and Saracens, rejects 
the idea that the notion of Saracens as idolaters was a matter of ignorance; 
he suggests, instead, that it was a deliberate fiction intended to amuse, (p. 
121 and chaps. 6, 7). The adjective "pagan" does not necessarily describe an 
idolater in medieval sources, however. For many writers it appears to be no 
more than a synonym for non-Christian. 

8. Daniel Pipes gives a list of ethnic affiliations of slave soldiers from the east- 
ern Mediterranean in the early Abbasid period, including black Africans, 
Turks, Khazars, Slavs, Greeks, Nabateans, and Yemeni. Pipes, Slave Soldiers 
and Islam: the Genesis of a Military System (New Haven and London, 
1981), 183. 

9. Most of the slaves recruits were called Saqaliba, a term that is somewhat un- 
clear but is generally assumed to mean Slav as well as slave. 

10. S. M. Imamuddin, Muslim Spain 711—1492 AD: A Sociological Study (Lei- 
den, 1981), 29-31, 47, 65, 113; Daniel Pipes, Slave Soldiers and Islam, 171, 
makes the point that, for slave or freeman alike, military service offered the 
only avenue for advancement of non-Arabs within Islamic society; P. Crone, 
Slaves on Horses: The Evolution of the Islamic Polity (Cambridge, 1980), 
74—81; see also E. Levi-Provencal, Histoire de TEspagne Musulmane (Paris, 
1950), vol. 2, 122-30. 

11. Bancourt, Muselmans dans les Chansons, 3—8. 

12. Jones, "The Conventional Saracen," 225, who concludes that these Saracens 
were modeled on biblical, heathen idolaters. 


13. Aymeri de Narbonne, chanson de geste, ed. Louis Demaison (Paris, 1887), 2 
vols, (kisses XLIX'XCV). 

14. E. Langois, Le Couronnement de Louis, 2nd rev. (Paris, 1966); Guillaume 
d'Orange, four Twelfth-Century Epics, trans. Joan Ferrante (New York, 1974), 
63-139. See II. 845-63. 

15. Aiol, chanson de geste (Paris, 1877), ed. Gaston Raynaud and Jacques Nor- 
mand. Alberic de Trois Fontaines remarked in the thirteenth century con- 
cerning "Aiol, de quo canitur a multis." (p. xxxiv). 

16. L'Entree d'Espagne, chanson de geste franco-italienne, ed. Antoine Thomas, 2 
vols. (Paris, 1913), I, cii, 11. 2444—64. This work is first mentioned in a cat- 
alogue of Francesco Gonzaga at Mantua ca. 1407 and was probably written 
in the late fourteenth century. Its author is anonymous; a continuation was 
written by Nicholas of Verona. 

17. Bancourt, Muselmans dans les Chansons, vol. 1, 340. 

18. Suzanne Conklin Akbari, "Dissimilarity and Assimilation: The Representa- 
tion of the East in Middle English Romances," 6—7, presentation to the An- 
nual Meeting of the Medieval Academy, April 1996, revised and 
forthcoming. In the German context, see the thirteenth-century epic Orendel 
and the fourteenth-century epic of St. Oswald. 

1 9 . The Romaunce of The Sowdone ofBabylone, ed. Emil Hausknecht (Early Eng- 
lish Text Society, no. 38, 1881). 

20. The Middle High German Poem ofWillehalm by Wolfram von Eschenbach, 
Charles Passage, ed. and trans. (New York, 1977), 35, 13-17. See also Wol- 
fram von Eschenbach: Willehalm, eds. and trans. Marion Gibbs and Sidney 
Johnson (London, 1984); and Alexander Carlson Merrow, "German Litera- 
ture in the Age of Crusade," M. Phil., (Cambridge University, 1994). 

21. Passage, Willehalm, 306-307. 

22. Le Voyage de Charlemagne a Jerusalem et a Constantinople: texte publie avec 
une introduction, des notes et un glossaire, ed. Paul Aebischer (Geneva, 1965), 
2nd ed; The Pilgrimage of Charlemagne (Le Pelerinage de Charlemagne), ed. 
and trans. Glyn Burgess; intro. A. E. Cobby (New York, 1988). 

23. Aucassin and Nicolette (Aucassin et Nicolette), ed A. N. Cobby, trans, and 
intro. Glyn Burgess (New York, 1988). The very few references to Saracens 
are matter-of-fact — Nicolette being purchased from the Saracens; her bap- 
tism; her being promised in marriage to a rich, pagan (Saracen) king. 

24. The Rolandslied, a German version of the Chanson de Roland, was popular, 
however, with approximately 40 manuscripts surviving. Herbert Kolb, 
"Rolandslied-lesung im Deutschen Orden," Lnternationales Archiv fur 
Sozialgeschichte der deutsche Literatur 15 (1990): 1—12. 

25. Herzog Ernst: ein mittelalterliches Abenteuerbuch, ed. Karl Bartsch (Stuttgart, 
1970); The Legend of Duke Ernst, J. W. Thomas and Carolyn Dussere, trans. 
(London, 1979). 

26. The Primera cronica general de Espana of Alfonso X, ed. Ramon Menendez Pidal, 
(Madrid, 1955) includes an early version of the legend of Rodrigo, where his 
defeat by the Moors parallels the Fall of Man and the Expulsion from Eden. 


The focus of the legend is on the evil-doings of the traitor Julian, whose daugh- 
ter Rodrigo had violated, rather than on the Muslim conquest. Attention is also 
directed toward Rodrigo s repentance and the defeat of the Moors by the hero 
Pelayo. Cf I, 3 1 where Julian is described as "oblidado de lealdad, desacordado 
de la ley, despreciador de Dios, cruel en si mismo, matador de su sennor, en- 
imigo de su casa, destroydor de su tierra, culpado et alenoso et traydor contra 
todos los suyos." In contrast, the Muslims are of passing concern. 

27. Defourneaux, "La Legenda de Bernardo del Carpio," Bulletin Hispanique 45 
(1943): 117-38. 

28. See the thirteenth-century Italian Conti di Antichi Cavalieri, the thirteenth- 
century Recits d'un Menestral de Reims, and the fifteenth-century Roman de 
Salah al-Din. John V. Tolan, "Mirror of Chivalry: Salah-al-Din in the Me- 
dieval European Imagination," in Images of the Other: Europe and the Mus- 
lim World Before 1700, ed. David R. Blanks (Cairo, 1997), 7-38. 

29. Although some of Chretien de Troyes's romances (especially Cliges) have a 
Byzantine background, scholars have also suggested that the origin for Chre- 
tien's concept of the Holy Grail in the Percival legend may be Byzantine. 

30. Der Parzival des Wolfram von Eschenbach, ed. Dieter Kuhn, 2 vols. (Frank- 
furt, 1986); Arthur Thomas Hatto, ed. and trans., Wolfram von Eschenbach: 
Parzival (New York, 1987). 

31. Marcia Colish, in "The Virtuous Pagan: Dante and the Christian Tradition," 
in The Unbounded Community: Conversations across Times and Disciplines, 
ed. Duncan Fisher and William Caferro (New York, 1995), with a particu- 
lar focus on the legend of Trajan and his salvation. 

32. Jocelyn Hillgarth, Ramon Lull and Lullism in Fourteenth-Century France, 
(Oxford, 1971), 24; Lull, Arbre de Ciencia, ORL, xii, 77- For an even more 
generous attitude, see the Cantigas of Alfonso X. 

33. B, 382ff. See also the comments of Ernest Kaulbach, "Islam in the Glossa Or- 
dinaria," below. 

34. Cindy Vitto, The Virtuous Pagan in Middle English Literature (Philadelphia, 

35. John Wycliffe, De Fide Catholica in Johannis Wycli Opera inora (London, 
1913A 112. 

36. M. D. Knowles, "The Censured Opinions of Uthred of Boldon," 
Proceedings of the British Academy, 37 (London, 1953) 305ff. 

37- Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love (Baltimore, 1966), 103, 

38. Carl Erdmann, The Origin oftheLdea of Crusade (Princeton, 1977) and H. E. J. 
Cowdrey, "The Genesis of the Crusades: The Springs of Western Ideas of Holy 
War," in The Holy War, ed. T. P. Murphy (Columbus, Ohio, 1976) argue that 
Gregory VII effectively initiated the concept of a Holy War against the Mus- 
lims. Erdmann's analysis has been challenged, and Cowdrey has modified his 
views. See E. O. Blake, "The Formation of the 'Crusade Idea,'" Journal of Ec- 
clesiastical History 2 1 (1 970) : 11—21; and I. S. Robinson, "Gregory VII and the 
Soldiers of Christ," History n.s. 58 (1973): 169-92. H. E. J. Cowdrey, "Pope 


Gregory VII's 'Crusading' Plans of 1074," in Outremer, ed. B. Z. Kedar, H. E. 
Mayer, and R. C. Smail (Jerusalem, 1982), 27-^0; Jonathan Riley-Smith, "The 
First Crusade and St. Peter," Ibid., 41-63. 

39. The Correspondence of Pope Gregory VII: Selected letters from the Registrum, 
trans., with an introduction by Ephraim Emerton (New York, 1932), 57- 

40. Correspondence of Gregory VII, 94. 

41. Dana Carleton Munro, "The Speech of Pope Urban II at Clermont, 1095," 
American Historical Revieiv 1 1 (1906): 231^2; Penny J. Cole, The Preaching of 
the Crusades to the Holy Land, 1095—1270 (Cambridge, Mass., 1991), chap. 1. 

42. Jonathan Riley-Smith, "The First Crusade and the Persecution of the Jews," 
in Persecution and Tolerance, ed. W. J. Sheils (Oxford, 1984), 51—72; Robert 
Chazan, European Jewry and the First Crusade (Berkeley, 1987); Shlomo Ei- 
delberg, The Jews and the Crusaders: The Hebrew Chronicles of the First and 
Second Crusades (Madison, WI, 1977). 

43. A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem 1095— 1 127, trans. Frances Rita Ryan 
(Knoxville, TN, 1969), 122. 

44. The Deeds of the Franks and the Other Pilgrims to Jerusalem, ed. and trans. 
Rosalind Hill (London, 1962): 92. See also John Tolan, "Muslims as Pagan 
Idolaters in Chronicles of the First Crusade," below. 

45. Usama ibn Munqidh, a Syrian Arab who wrote an anecdotal autobiography 
in the twelfth century, gives several examples. See Arab Historians of the Cru- 
sades, ed. Francesco Gabrieli (Berkeley, CA, 1969), chap. 9. 

46. Frank M. Chambers, "Some Legends Concerning Eleanor of Aquitaine," 
Speculum 16 (1941): 459-68; D. D. R. Owen, Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen 
and Legend (Oxford, 1993). 

47. Tolan, "Mirror of Chivalry," 7-38. 

48. Bradford B. Broughton, The Legends of King Richard I Coeur de Lion (The 
Hague, 1966); "Romance of Richard the Lion-Hearted," in Richard the 
Lion-Hearted and other Medieval English Romances, trans, and ed. B. B. 
Broughton (New York, 1966). 

49. Helen Nicholson, Templars, Hospitallers aiid Teutonic Knights: Images of the 
Military Orders 1128-1291 (Leicester, 1993). 

50. F. Zarncke, "Zur Sage von Prester Johannes," Neues Archiv II (1887): 
612—14, cited in Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages, 46. 

51. Vsevolod Slessarev, Prester John: the Letter and the Legend (Minneapolis, 
1959); L. N. Gumilev, Searches for an Imaginary Kingdom: the Legend of the 
Kingdom of Prester John, trans. R. E. F. Smith (Cambridge, 1987). 

52. Nestorianism is a Christian sect that originated with the views of Nestorius, 
Bishop of Constantinople in the early fifth century. His views, that the di- 
vine and human natures of Christ were independent and that Mary was not 
Theotokos, were condemned at the Council of Ephesus (431) and the Coun- 
cil of Chalcedon (451). Most of his followers lived in Asia Minor and Syria, 
although Nestorianism also spread to Egypt and to China and was influen- 
tial with the Mongols in the thirteenth century. The Nestorian church was 
nearly obliterated by Timurlane in the fourteenth century. 


53. The Chronicle of Theophanes, trans. Harry Turtledove (Philadelphia, 1982). 
The information Theophanes recorded with regard to Muslim history de- 
rived from a Greek translation of a late eighth-century chronicle written in 
Syriac. In his descriptions of Muhammad, Theophanes portrays him as a 
false prophet and the Islamic religion as a heresy. He includes reasonably ac- 
curate information with regard to Muhammad's life and teachings, the ex- 
pansion of Islamic rule, the division between the Shi'ites and the Sunnis, and 
the emergence of Muslim extremist groups such as the Kharijites. See also 
Benjamin Kedar, Crusade and Mission: European Approaches toiuard the Mus- 
lims (Princeton, 1984), 85-86. 

54. Daniel J. Sahas, John of Damascus on Islam: the "Heresy of the Ishmaelites" 
(Leiden, 1972); "John of Damascus on Islam, Revisited," Abr-Nahrain 23 
(1984-85): 104-18. 

55. The Eastern tradition that Muhammad's God was a pagan, materialist god, 
derives primarily from Nicetas of Byzantium, whose ninth-century polemics 
were widely influential and whose views stemmed not only from the earlier 
writers but also from his knowledge of the Qur'an. See Craig L. Hanson, 
"Manuel I Comnenus and the 'God of Muhammad,'" in Medieval Christian 
Perceptions of Islam: ABook of Essays, ed.J. V.Tolan (New York, 1996), 55—82. 

56. Kedar, Crusade and Mission, 87- 

57. This paragraph depends on the discussion of this point in Benjamin Kedar, 
Crusade and Mission, 87—90. 

58. Kedar, Crusade and Mission, 87—88 citing Guibert of Nogent, Gesta Dei per 
Francos, I, 3, in RHC. HOcc. 4:130; and R. M. Thomson, "William of 
Malmesbury and Some Other Western Writers on Islam," Medievalia et Hu- 
manistica NS 6 (1975): 181-82. 

59. Edward Tracy Brett, Humbert of Romans: His Life and Views of Thirteenth- 
Century Society (Toronto, 1984); Kedar, 89, citing Humbertus de Romanis, 
Opusculum tripartitum, I, 27, 205. 

60. Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, trans. 
William G. Ryan, 2 vols. (Princeton, 1993), II, 372. 

61. Kedar, Crusade and Mission, 90. 

62. For example, Petrus Alfonsi's Dialogi contra Judaeos, written in the twelfth 
century, extant in more than 160 manuscripts, and frequently cited by me- 
dieval writers, offered the best-informed and thorough account attacking 
Islam to date. See John Tolan, Petrus Alfonsi and his Medieval Readers 
(Gainesville, Florida, 1993), xiv, chap. 2. 

63. W W Comfort, "The Literary Role of the Saracens in the French Epic," 
Proceedings of the Modem Language Association, 55 (1940): 629—630. The 
word derives from the classical Latin name of an Arab tribe, the Sarraceni. 
Comfort suggests that Saracen meant, in the medieval context, any people 
whose religion was other than Christian. Thus, Saxons, Irish, Danes, and 
Vandals might be confused with Saracens. On the transfer of scientific 
knowledge and other cultural exchanges, see Alauddin Samarrai, "Arabs and 
Latins in the Middle Ages: Enemies, Partners, and Scholars," below. 


64. James Kritzeck, Peter the Venerable and Islam (Princeton, 1964). Peter the 
Venerable's attitude toward Islam was strongly negative. In a letter to 
Bernard of Clairvaux in 1143 he characterized Islam as an "execrable and 
noxious heresy," a "pestilential doctrine," "impious," " a damnable sect," and 
Muhammad was an evil man. Ep. Lib, IV, xvii in Patrologia cursus completus 
seriess Latina, 139: 339^0. This letter, which was rewritten several times 
and serves as the preface to his collection of translations (the Summa totius 
heresis ac diabolicae sectae Sarracenorum) , states his desire to clarify the beliefs 
of Islam and to correct the bizarre legends circulating among men ignorant 
of true history and with little desire to educate themselves. 

65. There are more than 30 extant manuscripts. 

66. Marie d'Alverny, "Deux traductions latines du Coran au Moyen Age," 
Archives d'histoire doctrinale et litteraire du Moyen Age 16 (1948): 69—131 de- 
scribes the translation as mediocre, sometimes comical, and loose (86, lOOff). 

67- Appended to Robert of Ketton's translation of the Qur'an was a Latin trans- 
lation of the Risala of pseudo-al-Kindi done by Peter of Toledo, an apology 
and dialogue in defense of Christianity against Islam. The translation, how- 
ever, preserves the irenic nature of the debate, including some rather favor- 
able comments on Muhammad, later deleted by revisers. "Nos scimus esse 
duas fides: unam istius seculi, et alteram futuri. Fides vero et insitutio huius 
seculi est quam dedit Daradast. Fides autem futuri seculi est quam dedit 
Christus, orationes Dei super eum. Fides autem sana est unitas quam dedit 
Mahumet, noster propheta, oratio Dei super eum, et salus. Ipsa est fides que 
continet in se utriusque fidei modos, scilicet et istius seculi et futuri." 

68. Thomas Burman, in a presentation to the Medieval Academy in 1996. 

69. Alessandro D'Ancona, La leggenda di Maometto in Occidente, Studi di critica 
e storia letteraria, pt. ii, 2nd ed. (Bologna, 1912); for reactions and additional 
studies of Muhammad's legend, see d'Alverny, 74, n.5. For the description of 
Muhammad as the Beast of the Apocalypse, see the crusading appeal of Pope 
Innocent III in 1213, described in Southern, Western Views of Islam in the 
Middle Ages, 42, n. 10, the article by David Burr, "Antichrist and Islam in 
Medieval Franciscan Exegesis," in Tolan (ed.), Medieval Christian Perceptions 
of Islam, 131—52, and Suzanne Conklin Akbari, "The Rhetoric of Antichrist 
in Western Lives of Muhammad," The Journal of Islam and Christian-Muslim 
Relations 8 (1997): 297—307- In general, however, Muhammad and other 
Muslim leaders were seen as signs of the coming of Antichrist, but not as 
Antichrist himself. Joachim of Fiore, for example, saw Muhammad and other 
Muslim leaders as the fourth head of the seven-headed dragon (Rev. 12:3). 
Peter Olivi follows Joachim in this interpretation, as does Dante in Purgato- 
ria, 32. Manselli, La "Lectura super Apocalypsim" de Pietro di Giovanni Olivi 
(Rome, 1955). Olivi tends to stress the role of Islam in the apocalypse more 
than others. Cf. David Burr, Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom: A Reading of the Apoc- 
alypse Commentary (Philadelphia, 1993), chap. 6. 

70. Cf. Walter of Compiegne, Otio de Machomete with Le Roman de Mahomet d' 
Alexandre du Pont, ed. Klincksieck (Paris, 1977), intro., which was influ- 


enced by the apocalypse of Bahira (ca. 820) where Islam is described as a 
heresy that Muhammad derived from hearing about Christianity from the 
monk Bahira. In the early biography of Muhammad by Ibn Hisham, Bahira 
predicts Muhammad's great destiny. In Byzantine sources, this Bahira (also 
named Sergius and Nestorius) became Muhammad's teacher. Legends made 
Bahira into a disaffected cardinal named Nicholas, and some later legends 
confuse Nicholas with Muhammad himself. See, for example, the Liber de 
Haeresibus of John of Damascus (eighth century) and Petrus Alfonsi's Diaiogi 
contra Judaeos (twelfth century). 

71. Norman Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image, rev. ed. (Ox- 
ford, 1993), chap. 3. 

72. In late medieval England, The Golden Legend was the most popular religious 
text, the one most often bequeathed in wills; it was commonly chained in 
parish churches for the clergy and general public to consult. J. Hoeppner 
Moran, The Growth of English Schooling (Princeton, 1985), 204. 

73. The Golden Legend, II, 370—73. What is most interesting, however, is the ex- 
tent to which Saracens and Muhammad are absent from the text. Occasion- 
ally Jacobus mentions that the Saracens took someone captive, scattered or 
burned the bones of a saint, and invaded a territory (I, 242, 246, 335; II, 46, 
113, 128, 261), but the only sustained treatment of Islam is sandwiched be- 
tween a highly negative account of the Lombards, embedded in a "Life of St. 
Pelagius," and relegated to the penultimate chapter. 

74. See especially the two works by Humbert of Romans — De Praedicatione Sanc- 
tae Crucis Contra Saracenos and the Opusculum Tripartitum. See also South- 
ern, Western Views ofLslam, 42—44; 57 where he quotes Roger Bacon (Opus 
Mains, III, 122): "There are few Christians; the whole breadth of the world 
is occupied by unbelievers, and there is no one to show them the truth." 

75. Brett, Humbert of Romans, chap. 11. 

76. Easton, Roger Bacon, 135—36. 

77- James Muldoon, Popes, Lawyers and Lnfidels (Philadelphia, 1979). These laws 
parallel Muslim laws on dhimmis or minorities. 

Canon law on the Saracens developed only in the thirteenth century, 
emerging from the Fourth Lateran, in Gregory IX's Decretals, in papal letters, 
at the Second Council of Lyons (1274), and the Council of Vienne 
(1311—12). Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner, S. J., 2 
vols. (Washington, D.C, 1990), vol. I. None of these strictures are repeated 
for the benefit of the English Church in ecclesiastical councils and synods 
from 1205 to 1313. Councils & Synods with other Documents Relating to the 
English Church, ed. E M. Powicke and C. R. Cheney, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1964). 

78. Larissa Taylor, Soldiers of Christ: Preaching in Late Medieval and Reformation 
France (Oxford, 1992), 154. 

79. Patrologia cursus completus series Latina, vol. 205, 328. 

80. This is one of the concerns expressed by Humbert of Romans in his Opusculum 
Tripartitum, written for the second Council of Lyons and directed to preachers 
to counter criticisms of the crusades. Salimbene, the thirteenth-century 


Franciscan preacher, reported, in an oft quoted passage, that Christians were 
taunting friars, saying that they would rather give alms to Muslims than to 
Christians, since Muslims had proven themselves the stronger. Brett, 183; Sal- 
imbene, Chronica, in Monumentd Gennaniae Historica, ss. 32: 327. 

Sermon literature is a particularly good source for studying popular Western 
attitudes toward Islam. Unfortunately, there have been very few studies done 
of preaching of the First Crusade, cited above; Milton McC Gatch, Preaching 
and Theology in Anglo-Saxon England (Toronto, 1977) finds no mention of 
Islam. There is more work done on preaching from the thirteenth century on. 
See especially David L. D'Avray, The Preaching of the Friars: Sermons Diffused 
from Paris before 1300 (Oxford, 1985); Brett's work on Humbert of Romans; 
G. R. Owst, Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England (Oxford, 1961); J. W. 
Blench, Preaching in England in the Late Fifeenth and Sixteenth Centuries (New 
York, 1964): H. Leith Spencer, English Preaching in the late Middle Ages (Ox- 
ford, 1993); Taylor, Soldiers of Christ: Preaching in Late Medieval and Refor- 
mation France; studies and editions of texts by Siegfried Wenzel; and a variety 
of studies of preaching in late medieval-Renaissance Florence. With the ex- 
ception of Brett's work on Humbert of Romans and various analyses of the 
sermons preached during the First Crusade, most of these studies do not sug- 
gest that preachers were very concerned with the threat of Islam or the status 
of Muslims. One of the more intriguing aspects of those sermons that did 
focus on Islam was the extent to which images and information from the chan- 
sons de geste were utilized. 

81. Cf. Ricoldus de Monte Crucis's Ltinerarius, written at the end of the thir- 
teenth century. "Quis enim non obstupescat, si diligenter consideret, quanta 
in ipsis Sarracenis sollicitudo ad studium, devocio in oratione, misericordia in 
paupares, reverencia ad nomen Dei et prophetae et loca sancta, gravitas in 
moribus, affabilitas ad extraneos, concordia et amor ad suos." Peregrinatores 
medii aevi quattuor, ed. Laurent (Leipzig, 1864), cap. 32. 

82. The Travels of Marco Polo, trans. R. Latham (New York, 1958), 134-307. 
There are 70 extant manuscripts. A far more sympathetic and popular travel 
account is Mandeville's Travels, a fourteenth-century literary masterpiece 
from an author who may or may not have visited some of the places he de- 
scribes. For Mandeville, Muslims were a virtuous counterpoint to the de- 
pravity of Christians. It was an enormously successful text, with 250+ extant 
manuscripts, translated into nearly every major European language by 1400. 
For an analysis, see Frank Grady, "'Macho mete' and Mandeville's Travels," in 
Tolan, Medieval Perceptions of Islam, 271—88. 

83. Willelmi Tyrensis Archiepiscopi Chronicon, ed. R. B. C. Huygens (Turnhout, 
1986); William Archbishop of Tyre, A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, 
trans, E. A. Babcock and A. C. Krey (New York, 1941). See also P. W Edbury 
andj. G. Rowe, William ofTyre: Historian of the Latin East (Cambridge, 1988). 

84. Chronicon, bk. 20, chaps. 11, 31; bk. 21, chap. 6. 

85. See M. R. Morgan, The Chronicle of Ernoul and the Continuation ofWilliam 
ofTyre (Oxford, 1973); Peter W Edbury, "The Lyon Eracles and the Old 


French Continuation of William of Tyre," forthcoming, cited in Edbury, 
The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade: Sources in Translation (Lon- 
don, 1996), 6, n. 11. 

86. Edbury, The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade. 

87. Edbury, Conquest of Jerusalem, 101. 

88. Edbury, Conquest of Jerusalem, 79. 

89. For the debate on this, see Palmer Throop, Criticism of the Crusade: A Study 
of Public Opinion and Crusade Propaganda (Amsterdam, 1940): and Elizabeth 
Siberry, Criticism of Crusading (Oxford, 1985); as well as Kedar, Crusade and 

90. Opus Maius, ed. J. H. Bridges, (Oxford, 1900), vol. 3, 120-22; Kedar, 

91. Selected Works of Ramon Llull 1232— 1316, ed. and trans. Anthony Bonner, 2 
vols. (Princeton, 1985), especially the Ars Brevis in vol. 1; see also Mark D. 
Johnston, The Spiritual Logic of Ramon Llull (Oxford, 1987). 

92. The Council of Vienne (1311—12) decreed the establishment of schools of 
Hebrew, Arabic, and Chaldean at Paris, Oxford, Bologna, Salamanca, and at 
the Roman curia for purposes of proselytizing, translating books from those 
languages into Latin, and teaching others those languages. Tanner, Decrees of 
the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1, 379—80. It was a stillborn project. 

93. Norman Daniel cites two other medieval authors, San Pedro Pascual and 
Ricoldo da Monte di Croce, both of whom were exceedingly well informed 
with regard to Islam, both of whom wrote polemics for the use of mission- 
aries, and both of whom had very little readership. For Ricoldo's trip to the 
Middle East in the 1290s, see U. Monneret de Villard, // libro della Pere- 
grinazione nelle Parti d'Oriente (Rome, 1948) and Peregrinatores medii aevi 
quattuor. There are also two early fourteenth-century pilgrimage accounts, 
both well informed, both extremely negative, neither of which were widely 
read. See the Itinerarium Symeonis ab Hybernia ad Terram Sanctam, ed. M. 
Esposito (Scriptores Latini Hiberniae, IV), 1960, and the Liber Peregrinatio- 
nis di Jacopo da Verone, ed. U. Monneret de Villard (Rome, 1950). 

94. On John of Segovia, see Dario Cabanelas Rodriguez, Juan de Segovia y el 
Problema Lslamico (Madrid, 1952). 

9 5 . Nicholas of Cusa, On Lnterreligious Harmony, Text, Concordance and Transla- 
tion of De pace Fidei, ed. Biechler and Bond (Lewiston, ME, 1991). 

96. Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, Epistola ad Mahomatem II, ed. and trans. Albert 
Baca (New York, 1990), 88, 194. For an analysis of this letter in the context 
of Pius's overall crusading and political strategies, see Robert Schwoebel, The 
Shadow of the Crescent: The Renaissance Image of the Turk (New York, 1 967), 
esp. chap. 3, 65—67. 

97- Christians and Moors in Spain, ed. Colin Smith (Warminster, 1988 — ), vol. 
2, 134-35. 

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Chapter Three 

The Image of the 

Saracen as Heretic in 

the Sermons of Ademar 

of Chab annes* 

Mich a el Frassctto 

Richard Southern once noted that the "existence of Islam was the most 
far-reaching problem in medieval Christendom." 1 From the birth of 
Islam to ca. 1100, however, Southern observes that Western Chris- 
tians did not demonstrate the preoccupations with nor the burning hostility 
toward the Saracen that their Byzantine contemporaries and Western suc- 
cessors would. It was not until about 1100 that the Western attitude toward 
the Saracen became more belligerent.'^ This transition to a more hostile atti- 
tude was not so sudden or dramatic as it may at first appear. Indeed, as R. I. 
Moore has recently demonstrated, the system of classification of the "other," 
that existed in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, emerged first at the time 
of the millennium. 

The stereotype of the Saracen as a heretic or enemy of the faith that was 
promulgated by Western writers like Guibert of Nogent, Peter the Venera- 
ble, Robert of Ketton, and, especially the authors of the chansons de geste, 
first found expression in the early eleventh-century works of Ademar of 
Chabannes (ca. 989— 1034). 5 A monk of Angouleme and Limoges, Ademar 
was a voluminous writer whose works include an illustrated Psychomachia, 


hagiographical works, history, musical compositions, pious forgeries, and 
sermons. Impressario of the cult of St. Martial and an advocate of the im- 
portant Peace of God movement, Ademar was a writer whose literary cor- 
pus reveals many of the important developments of his age. Indeed, at the 
time that the chansons themselves were evolving in oral form, this Limou- 
sin monk's history and, more importantly, his numerous unedited sermons 
provide written evidence of the transformation of the Western perception 
of the Saracen. Clearly, Ademar's corpus offers valuable insights into the 
formation of the image of the Saracen as the enemy that would predomi- 
nate in the later eleventh and twelfth century. 

It would be useful to begin with a brief summary of the image of the Sara- 
cen that appeared at the hands of twelfth-century writers. In both learned and 
popular works, the Saracen appears as a polytheist, heretic, or enemy of the 
faith. In the chansons de geste Saracens are portrayed as idolaters who prac- 
ticed perverse rites, blasphemed the Christian God, and worshipped the gods 
Muhammad, Apollyon, and Termagant. 7 Although faring better in learned 
works, the Saracen remains the focus of Western polemic. Many commenta- 
tors include slanderous accounts of the life of Muhammad and vehement de- 
nunciations of the Qur'an and Islam in their works. 8 Guibert of Nogent 
provides a particularly good example of the growing hostility toward Islam. In 
his history of the First Crusade, Guibert provides the most scandalous account 
of the life of Muhammad, declaring "it is safe to speak evil of one whose ma- 
lignity exceeds whatever ill can be spoken." 9 Even Peter the Venerable, who 
provided one of the most enlightened approaches to Islam, identifies the Sara- 
cen as a heretic and precursor of Antichrist. 10 Indeed, learned and popular 
writers developed the image of the Saracen as enemy to justify the crusades and 
express their own religious fervor. 11 

A similar combination of hostility and piety would contribute to Ade- 
mar's creation of a stereotyped image of the Saracen. His concerns with the 
forces of Islam, like Guibert and Peter the Venerable's, were inspired by in- 
ternal and external threats. The lingering fear of the Saracens who had re- 
cently kidnapped Majolus, abbot of Cluny, and other local and distant 
events turned Ademar's attention to the enemies of the faith. Consequently, 
in his sermons and Chronicon, he developed an image of the Saracen as a 
heretic and as a minion of Antichrist, which foreshadows the Saracens' por- 
trayal in the twelfth century and makes Ademar an important precursor of 
the polemicists of the next century. 

Like many of his twelfth-century successors, Ademar's concern with the 
Saracen was stimulated both by events in the Holy Lands and by changes in 
his native Aquitaine. His attention to the issue of the Saracen was inspired 
by the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre in 1010 by the caliph al-Hakim 
(996—102 1). 12 According to Ademar, the destruction of the church was part 


of broad a Jewish-Muslim conspiracy aimed against all Christendom. The 
actions of al-Hakim followed the forced conversion of the Jews in Limoges 
by Bishop Hilduin. In response to this violent act, the Jews sent a message 
to the caliph warning him of the dangers of Western arms. Upon receiving 
this warning, al-Hakim began to persecute the Christians, and destroy their 
holy sites. Indeed, great persecution was endured by the Christians many of 
whom suffered forced conversions until a great famine struck and al-Hakim 

Ademar's telling of the incident assumes a pronounced eschatolological 
character and clearly associates the Saracens with Antichrist. 13 Ademar un- 
derstood that the destruction of the churches and the persecution of the 
Christians by al-Hakim were signs of the last days. Al-Hakim himself as- 
sumes the central role in the eschatological drama, not only because he per- 
secuted Christians, but also because he "raised himself up in pride against 
God." Ademar identifies the caliph with Antichrist by calling him rex Ba- 
bilonius and Nabuchodonosor Babiloniae, one of the primary medieval apoc- 
alyptic topoi. 1 ^ Moreover, his assumption that the Saracens were heterodox 
Christians reinforces their eschatological status, because Ademar accepted 
the notion that heretics were the precursors of Antichrist. Thus, in his his- 
tory, Ademar characterizes the Saracen as the enemy of the faith and also as- 
cribes to him a role in the great drama of Antichrist. 

By incorporating the Saracen into the story of Antichrist, Ademar associ- 
ates the Saracen with those heretics and false apostles who, as Paul prophe- 
sied, would come at the end of time. The association of Saracen and heretic 
is confirmed in this passage, moreover, by Ademar's references to the Jews. 
The conspiracy of Muslim and Jew is the centerpiece of the story as told by 
Ademar, and reveals the supposed Jewish-Islamic hostility to Christianity. 
This alleged alliance between European Jews and Egyptian Muslims pro- 
vides Ademar and others of his age more evidence that the Jews were, as 
Allan and Hellen Cutler note, "Islamic fifth columnists in Christian terri- 
tory." 17 It is this perception of the Jew as ally of the Saracen that would, in 
part, lead to the terrible Jewish pogroms by crusading knights at the end of 
the century. 18 

It is important to note, however, that not only did the Jews take on the 
characteristics of the Saracens for Ademar and others, but also that the Sara- 
cens inherited the traits Western writers identified with the Jews. 19 More- 
over, as Ademar's own history demonstrates, this association of Jew and 
Muslim emerged at a time of growing anti-Semitism in medieval society. 20 
This emerging hostility appears not only in the tale of the conspiracy be- 
tween Jews and Muslims, but also in Ademar's account of the ritual Easter 
slap of a Jew and of a group of Roman Jews in 1020 who mocked the cross. 21 
The derision of the most sacred of Christian symbols, an action Ademar 


claims certain "Manichaeans" in the West also advocated, clearly established 
for this monk the nature of the Jews as enemies of the faith. It also demon- 
strates the type of apocryphal story that would become part of anti-Semitic 
lore and cast the Jew into the role of heretic. In fact, as Joshua Trachtenberg 
observes, "the Jew was inevitably looked upon as a heretic — indeed, the [em- 
phasis his] heretic." 22 At the very moment that Ademar and his contempo- 
raries were devising a new, negative image of the Jews, their attention was 
also focused on the Saracen. In the mind of Ademar and his contemporaries, 
therefore, the Jew and the Saracen were enemies who plotted against the 
Christian faith and rejected its teachings. 

As valuable as Ademar's history is for understanding the development of 
European hostility to Jews and Muslims, it is in the sermons that Ademar 
fully develops the themes existing in his history and offers his most complete 
presentation of the Saracen as enemy of the faith. In the sermons, Ademar 
demonstrates his most pressing concern: the issue of heresy and orthodoxy. 23 
Like Guibert of Nogent and Peter the Venerable, Ademar was deeply trou- 
bled by the rising tide of religious dissent in his age. 2 The monk of 
Aquitaine himself chronicles the sudden and dramatic revival of heresy at 
the turn of the millennium. In his history, Ademar describes the appearance 
of "Manichaeans" in Aquitaine, Toulouse, Orleans, and elsewhere in the 
West. 25 These "Manichaeans" seemed to orthodox churchmen of the day to 
be part of a broad movement of heretics rising up throughout all of Europe 
and spreading their false message to unsuspecting Christians. Clearly shaken 
by the reappearance of heresy, orthodox churchmen responded in a variety 
of ways, including the execution of a number of heretics at Orleans. The ser- 
mons, written in the early 1030s and now found in Paris B.N. MS. Lat. 
2469 and Berlin, D.S. MS. Lat. Philipps 1664, are, in part, Ademar's re- 
sponse to the appearance of heretics in Aquitaine during the preceding 
decade and a half. Throughout his numerous sermons, the monk of 
Aquitaine addresses a number of doctrinal matters and denounces both 
heresy in general and particular heresies from the history of the church in 
order to distinguish clearly the true faith from the false. For Ademar, the 
Saracens were closely related to the heretics of his own day and with the great 
heretics of the past, including the Arians and Sabellians, because of their 
shared threat to the Christian faith and, especially, their doctrinal errors. 

At various points throughout his sermons, but most clearly in the later 
collection of the two now in Berlin, Ademar demonstrates his understand- 
ing of the Saracens as outsiders by including them in lists of the Catholic 
faith's opponents. In the sermon De Eucharistia (fols. 70v— 78v), he separates 
true believers from those in error, explaining that the Catholic Church alone 
is the true congregation of Christians and that the "congregation of Jews, pa- 
gans, Saracens and all heretics" is outside of the true Church. In another 


sermon, he observes that no "Jew, Saracen, pagan or heretic may ever be 
saved unless they are among those who believe in the faith of St. Peter." 27 
Furthermore, in a passage possibly recalling the association of the Saracen 
with the forces of Antichrist in the Chronicon, Ademar tells a putative con- 
ciliar audience that the Catholic faith is the destruction of "Jews and also 
Saracens and pagans and heretics and antichrists and devils." 28 Thus for 
Ademar, Saracens — like Jews, heretics, and antichrists — stand outside the 
true faith and are opposed to it. 

Although these brief passages reveal Ademar s general attitude about the 
Saracens, it is in his Sermo ad Sinodum de Catholica Fide (fols. 83r— 96r) that 
he indulges in the most virulent attacks on the Saracen as heretic. 29 This ser- 
mon, the longest and most complex of the corpus, contains examinations of 
many of the central doctrinal concerns of Ademar. Focusing on the several 
tenets of the creed, Ademar repudiates the teachings of the heretics, includ- 
ing their Trinitarian doctrines. This is the most serious of errors because of 
the insult it offers to God, and is the one for which the Saracens deserve the 
most blame. 30 After defending the Catholic definition of the Trinity, Ade- 
mar argues that the Saracens lie when they claim to believe in one God and 
insult Christians when they accuse them of worshipping three gods. 31 More- 
over, although the Saracens assert belief in one God, they reject the Trinity 
and thus both deny God and provoke his wrath by their blasphemy. 32 

The Trinitarian errors of the Muslims, in Ademar's confused understand- 
ing, were not limited to the complete rejection of the Christian doctrine but 
included a misunderstanding of the true nature of the Trinity. According to 
Ademar, "There are many Saracens who say they believe in the holy Trinity 
but who do not believe in the incarnation of the Lord." 33 This error is as 
grievous as the general rejection of the Trinity, for it amounts to heretical re- 
pudiation of Catholic teaching. Furthermore, it is most likely that Ademar 
saw this alleged doctrine of the Saracens as a further example of their status 
as heretics. In fact, the Saracens' rejection of the incarnation of Christ is sim- 
ilar to the Aquitainian heretics' rejection of the redeemer of the world de- 
scribed by Ademar in his chronicle. 3 For Ademar, thus, acceptance of the 
Trinity was one of the central demands of orthodoxy and, in whatever form 
it took, the Saracens' denial of this tenet separated them from the body of 
believers. And, as many other polemicists would, Ademar offers Christian 
apology in his denunciation of Saracen errors concerning the Trinity. 35 

Anticipating the likes of Peter the Venerable, Robert of Ketton, and oth- 
ers, Ademar places his commentary on Saracen errors in the context of 
Christian heresies and continues his sermon with a discussion of the errors 
of the Sabellians and Arians. In this way he more clearly demonstrates that 
the Saracens are heretics because they hold beliefs similar to the great reli- 
gious dissidents of the past. After restating the Catholic doctrine of the unity 


of the triune god, Ademar denounces the errors of the Sabellians who fail to 
recognize the three distinct persons of the godhead. 37 These heretics erred, 
he says, by confounding the three persons into one person and foolishly 
merging the three instead of recognizing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 38 
And, as he notes elsewhere in this sermon, Catholics do not confuse the 
three persons nor separate the substance, but those Sabellians who believe 
incorrectly teach that "there is one person in God and not three just as there 
is one person in one man." 39 In fact, Ademar's explanation of the Sabellian 
tendency to emphasize the unity of the godhead at the expense of the Trin- 
ity recalls his own observation that the Saracens honor the unity but not 
Trinity of God. Indeed, in one of the few passages that come close to iden- 
tifying the actual teachings of Islam, Ademar notes that the Saracens believe 
in "God immortal" but do so incorrectly by failing to recognize the three 
distinct persons. The Saracens, like the Sabellians, make God into a single 
person — "the father alone who [was] the creator of all things" — and fail to 
recognize the Son and Holy Spirit. With this discussion, Ademar intro- 
duces an argument that will be repeated by many writers in the coming cen- 
tury, including Peter the Venerable who declares that the Saracen "denies the 
Trinity with Sabellius." 42 

Continuing his comparison of the Saracens with the ancient heretics, the 
monk of Aquitaine turns to the Arians. In this comparison of Arians and 
Saracens, he develops an argument similar to that of the annotator of Robert 
of Ketton, who observes that "in this man [Muhammad] the Arian heresy 
lived again." Once more the issue dividing the heretics from the Catholic 
faith is Trinitarian. According to Ademar, the Arians, like the Sabellians, err 
on the matter of the nature of the godhead, but, unlike them, Arians "sepa- 
rate the single substance of God into three substances." Although no Mus- 
lim would accept, nor even conceive of such a doctrine, in the mind of the 
medieval West the association was valid because of the denial of Catholic 
teaching shared by Muslims and Arians. 

In his denunciation of the Arians, Ademar clearly intends to reject any 
unorthodox view of the godhead, including that of the Saracens. Indeed, like 
Ketton's annotator, Ademar recognizes in the Saracens the revival of the 
Arian heresy, because in them the Church faces one of its greatest enemies. 
Throughout the history of the Church, the Arians were recognized as the 
arch-heretics because of the threat they mounted to the integrity of the faith. 
Arian was a term frequently employed to identify those who held unortho- 
dox views and to place these views outside acceptable doctrine. For Ade- 
mar and all Western commentators, the doctrines of the Saracen were as 
unacceptable as those of the Arians. Furthermore, we learn in this sermon 
that the Council of Nicaea established the precedent of orthodoxy to be fol- 
lowed by all. To oppose the teachings of Nicaea would mean acceptance of 


heresy, including what Ademar calls the "haeresi Sarracenorum. There- 
fore, it was the fundamental Trinitarian error of the Arians and Saracens that 
bound them together as the great enemies of the Church and that led Ade- 
mar to place them in context together in his defense of the Catholic creed. 

Ademar's commentary on the Saracen in the sermon De Catholica Fide is 
not limited to a discussion of perceived theological errors, but extends to 
gross caricatures of Saracen rites. Even though these passages are limited in 
number and length, they reveal the hostile, polemical attitude that would 
come to characterize twelfth-century literary treatments of Islam, Muham- 
mad, and the Saracen. In fact, Ademar's distortions of Islamic belief and 
practice are not unlike those of the chansons writers who presented all things 
"perverse, wicked, detestable ... as an integral part of Saracen doctrine." 
In two passages from this sermon, Ademar slanders Muslim religious rites by 
portraying them in a most detestable fashion. In one extended section, Ade- 
mar describes a sacrificial offering of food and drink that is devoured and 
desecrated by black dogs. A second passage further ridicules Saracen rites 
and foreshadows later descriptions of the witches' sabbath. In what is a clear 
inversion of Christian practice, Ademar describes the Saracen exchange of 
the ritual kiss. The Saracens, the Aquitaine monk asserts, "do not believe in 
the true God, who is true peace, and thus never give the kiss of peace." In- 
stead of this most honored practice, the Saracens turn the Christian rite up- 
side down and indulge in a ritual anal kiss. 50 Indeed, the Saracen, according 
to Ademar, does not merely reject Christian teaching but also mocks it by 
parodying Christian rites. Thus, with his scandalous portrayal of Islamic rit- 
ual Ademar further separates the Saracen from the community of the Chris- 
tian faithful. 

For Ademar, the perverse rituals of the Saracen are a central part of their 
doctrine, a doctrine that leads them away from belief in the Christian god 
and into wickedness. 51 As a result of their blasphemous beliefs, Ademar in- 
forms us, the Saracens are guilty of the worst sexual excesses. In one of his 
few accurate comments about the Muslims, Ademar asserts that one male 
may have several wives at the same time. 52 This observation reflects little at- 
tempt to understand the social and historical context of Islamic practice, but 
rather demonstrates the Western sense of the unorthodox marital practices 
of the Saracens at a time when the Church strove to establish monogamy in 
Christian marriage. 53 Moreover, Ademar's recognition of Muslim marital 
practices reveals the Western belief in the lascivious nature of the Saracen. 
An even more egregious accusation concerning Saracen sexual practices is 
Ademar's contention that "burning with concupiscence and without mod- 
esty, men lie with men, women with women . . . and people copulate with 
animals." 5 In this passage, Ademar, drawing on Paul's Epistle to the Ro- 
mans, describes a people who have turned their backs on God and indulge 


in the pleasures of the flesh. By citing this reference from Paul, Ademar 
clearly intended to separate the God-fearing Christian from the degenerate 
Saracen. For Ademar, the Saracens' rejection of the true faith led to their un- 
restrained lusts and desire to destroy Christian virtue. Moreover, although 
patently false, this image of the lustful Saracen would become a permanent 
part of the negative stereotype of Muslims by hostile Western writers. 

The alleged depravity of the Saracens is one more trait they shared with 
their Western Jewish allies. Once more the developing images of the Muslim 
and Jew overlap to reinforce one another and to strengthen the notion that 
these two peoples worked together to undermine all of Christendom. Like 
the Saracen, the Jew was accused of having an excessively lustful nature. In- 
deed, it is likely that those who described the immorality of the Jews in the 
West understood this as a reflection of the concupiscence of their Eastern al- 
lies. 5 And, because Ademar accepted the belief in the Jewish-Muslim con- 
spiracy, he was certain to have conflated Jewish lasciviousness with Saracen 

Ademar's characterization of the Saracens as corrupt and immoral can be 
understood as a means of associating the Saracens not only with the Jews but 
also with heretics appearing in Aquitaine and elsewhere in Europe at the 
time of the millennium. 57 The accusations of Saracen sexual excesses recall 
similar remarks Ademar and other writers of the early eleventh century made 
about heretics appearing in their midst. In his Chronicon, Ademar observes 
that the "Manichaeans" appearing in Aquitaine seemed as chaste as monks 
but "among themselves practiced every type of depravity." 58 Moreover, when 
discussing the heretics of Orleans, he notes that they "secretly rejected Christ 
and practiced abominations and crimes of which it is shameful to speak." 59 
An even more lurid tale of the sexual impropriety of the heretics of Orleans 
is told by Paul of St. Pere de Chartres, who describes the orgiastic rites of the 
heretics in full detail. Paul's account confirms the impression evident in 
Ademar's writings that in the mind of an eleventh-century monk, sexual 
misconduct and religious error were inextricably intertwined. Ademar's at- 
tribution of sexual impropriety to the Saracens is thus one more element of 
his general impression of the Saracen as heretic. 

Concerns with sexual propriety were especially prominent in the eleventh 
century and constitute one of the central themes of the reform movement in 
that age. In the early eleventh century, the Peace councils of Aquitaine em- 
phasized the importance of sexual purity and began to legislate against the 
heresy of simony. Similar legislation would be promulgated by the Grego- 
rian reformers beginning at mid-century. Fears of the sexual pollution of the 
Christian community and the desire to prohibit this pollution were stimuli 
for reform. These fears also contributed to the process of definition that was 
occurring, beginning in Ademar's time. In order to avoid pollution, Ademar 


and his contemporaries instituted a strict regimen of sexual morality. Accu- 
sations of simony and sexual impropriety were intended to cleanse the body 
of Christian faithful and separate out those who were stained with sexual ex- 
cess. Consequently, the enemies of the faith — heretics, Jews, and Saracens — 
were naturally believed to be guilty of immoral sexual practices. They were 
described as excessively lascivious and were identified with a broad move- 
ment that sought "the destruction of the Church . . . and the restoration of 
Satan's kingdom by means of unrestrained sexual licence." Thus, Ademar's 
imputation of sexual excesses to heretics and Saracens was a means of creat- 
ing an image of a single, united enemy of the faith, and of distinguishing 
them from the body of the true faithful in order to preserve the purity of the 
Christian community. 

Clearly then, Ademar's understanding of the Saracen as heretic and min- 
ion of Antichrist is of great significance. His interest in portraying Muslims 
in this manner provides an illustration of the transition from the earlier age 
of ignorance to the age of Peter the Venerable and the crusades. Indeed, his 
corpus represents a very important step in the development of the hostility 
to the "other" that would contribute to the mindset of the crusaders them- 
selves. Moreover, the material from his sermons provides valuable insights 
into the development of the European mentality itself, as it formed into 
what R. I. Moore recently described as a "persecuting society." Beginning 
in Ademar's own age, European society began to develop intellectual and in- 
stitutional structures that would sanction attacks against "groups of people 
defined by general characteristics such as race, religion or way of life." Ade- 
mar's hostility to the Saracens and characterization of them as heretics 
demonstrates this process of definition and also illustrates the emergence of 
the image of the Saracen as "other," an image that twelfth-century writers 
would fully develop. 


*A version of this paper was presented at the 29th International Congress 
of Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University, May 5—8, 1994. I 
would like to thank Daniel Callahan, Richard Sullivan, and George Stow for 
their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. 
Richard Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages, 2d printing 
(Cambridge, Mass., 1978), 3. 

Southern, Western Views of Islam, 1—27. Benjamin Z. Kedar, Crusade and 
Mission European Approaches toward the Muslims (Princeton, 1984), 27—35, 
argues that Westerners before ca. 1100 were better informed about Islam 
than Southern suggests, but that they were not preoccupied with it. See also 
Marie Therese d'Alverny, "La Connaissance de l'lslam en Occident du IXe au 
milieu du Xlle siecle," I'Occidente e l'lslam nellAlto Medioevo (Spoleto, 


1965), 577-602, David R. Blanks, "Byzantium and the Muslim World," in 
Images of the Other: Europe and the Muslim World Before 1700, ed. David R. 
Blanks, Cairo Papers in Social Science 19 (1997): 109—21; and John Meyen- 
dorff, "Byzantine Views of Islam," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 18 (1964): 

3. D'Alverny, "Connaissance de l'lslam," 598; Norman Daniel, The Arabs and 
Mediaeval Europe, 2d ed. (New York, 1979), 114-15 and 235-52; John 
France, "The First Crusade and Islam," The Muslim World 67 (1977): 
247—57; Kedar, Crusade and Mission, 25; James Kritzeck, "Moslem-Christian 
Understanding in Medieval Times A Review Article," Comparative Studies in 
Society and History 4 (1962): 392-95, and Dana C. Munro, "The Western 
Attitude Toward Islam During the Period of the Crusades," Speculum 6 
(1930): 329—43. But see the cautions voiced against this generality in the es- 
says by David R. Blanks and Jo Ann H. Moran Cruz. 

4. R. I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society (Oxford, 1987). 

5. For discussion of these authors and other Western Christian writers see the 
essays in Images of the Other, ed. David R. Blanks, and Medieval Christian 
Perceptions of Islam: A Book of Essays, ed. John V. Tolan (New York and Lon- 
don, 1996). 

6. The sermons remain in two unedited manuscripts, Paris, Bibliotheque Na- 
tionale, MS. Lat. 2469, fols. lr-112v and Berlin Deutschestaat Bibliothek, 
MS. Lat. Phillipps 1664, fols. 58v-170v, which Daniel Callahan and I are 
editing for publication. For Ademar see Daniel Callahan, "The Sermons of 
Ademar and the Cult of St. Martial of Limoges," Revue Benedictine 86 
(1976): 251—294 and Daniel Callahan, "Ademar of Chabannes, Apocalypti- 
cism and the Peace Council of Limoges of 1031," Revue Benedictine 101 
(199 1): 32—49; Leopold Delisle, "Notice sur les manuscrits originaux dAde- 
mar de Chabannes," Notice et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliotheque na- 
tionale 35 (1896), 241-385; Michael Frassetto, "The Art of Forgery: The 
Sermons of Ademar of Chabannes and the Cult of St. Martial of Limoges," 
Comitatus 26 (1995): 11—26; James Grier, "Ecce sanctum quern deus elegit 
Marcialem apostolum: Ademar de Chabannes and the Tropes for the Feast of 
Saint Martial," Beyond the Moon: Fetschrift luther Dittmer, eds. Bryan 
Gillingham and Paul Merkley (Ottowa, 1990), 28-74; Richard Landes, 
Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History: Ademar of Chabannes, 989—1934 
(Cambridge, Mass., 1995); H. B. Porter, "The Rites of the Dying in the 
Early Middle Ages, I: St. Theodulf of Orleans," Journal of Theological Stud- 
ies, new series, 10 (1959): 43—62; Herbert Schneider, "Ademar von Cha- 
bannes und Pseudoisidor — der 'Mythomane' und der Erzfalscher," 
Falschungen im Mittelalter, vol. 2 Gefalschte Rechstexte der bestrafte 
Falscher (Hanover, 1988), 129-150, and Robert Lee Wolff, "How the News 
was brought from Byzantium to Angouleme; or the Pursuit of a Hare in an 
Ox Cart," Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 4 (1978): 138-89. 

Until the edition by Richard Landes appears, see edition of the history by 
Jules Chavanon, Chronique dAdemar de Chabannes (Paris, 1897). 


7. For the image of the Saracen in the chansons see William Wistar Com- 
fort, "The Literary Role of the Saracens in the French Epic," Publications 
of the Modern Language Association of America 55 (1940): 628—59; 
Norman Daniel, Heroes and Saracens: A Reinterpretation of the Chansons of 
Geste (1983) and C. Meredith Jones, "The Conventional Saracen of the 
Songs of Geste," Speculum 17 (1942): 201—25. Useful discussion of the 
chansons may be found in Jean-Pierre Poly and Eric Bournazel, The Feu- 
dal Transformation 900-1200, trans. Caroline Higgitt (New York, 1991), 

8. For references and bibliography see d'Alverny, "Connaissance de l'lslam," 
597—98; Comfort, "Literary Role of the Saracens," 634—35; and Daniel, 
Arabs and Medieval Europe, 235^40. 

9. Southern, Western Views of Islam, 30—31, quotation from p. 31. 

10. For Peter the Venerable and Islam see the articles by M. T d'Alverny, Vir- 
ginia Berry, and J. Kritzeck in Petrus Venerabilis 1 1 56— 1 956 Studies and Texts 
Commemorating the Eighth Century of his Death, eds. Giles Constable and 
James Kritzeck (Rome, 1956). Also see M. T. d'Alverny, "Deux Traductions 
Latines du Co ran au Moyen Age," Archives d'histoire doctrinale et litteraire du 
Moyen Age 16 (1948): 69—131 and, especially, J. Kritzeck, Peter the Venera- 
ble and Islam (Princeton, 1964). 

11. Jones, "Conventional Saracen," 202—203. 

12. Chronique, 3:47, 169—70. The incident, which actually took place in 1009, 
is reported also by the Burgundian Rodolphus Glaber in Rodulfi Glabri His- 
toriarum Libri Quinqui, ed. and trans. John France (Oxford, 1989), 
3:7-24—25, 132—37, who also notes that the destruction took place in 1010. 
See also Southern, Western Views of Islam, 28. 

For al-Hakim see Robert Benton Betts, The Druze (New Haven, Conn., 
1988), chap. 1; Marius Canard, "La Destruction de l'eglise de la resurrection 
par la calife Hakim et l'histoire de la descente du feu sacre," Byzantion 35 
(1965): 16 — 43, and Marshall G. S. Hodgson, "Duruz," Encyclopedia of 
Islam, vol. 2 (Leiden, 1965), 631-37. 

13. For Ademar's apocalypticism see Callahan, "Ademar of Chabannes, Apoca- 
lypticism and the Peace," 32^49; Daniel Callahan, "The Problem of the 'Fil- 
ioque' and the Letter from the Pilgrim Monks of the Mount of Olives to 
Pope Leo III and Charlemagne. Is the Letter another Forgery by Ademar of 
Chabannes?," Revue Benedictine 102 (1992): 111-29, and Michael Fras- 
setto, "The Writings of Ademar of Chabannes, the Peace of 994, and the 
'Terrors of the Year 1000,'" (forthcoming). 

14. Chronique, 3.47, 169. Al-Hakim "se contra Deum erexerat in superbiam." 

1 5 . Chronique. For the medieval view of Nebuchadnezzar see David J . Bernstein, 
The Mystery of the Bayeux Tapestry (Chicago, 1986), 181-89. 

16. Chronique, 3.49, 173 where Ademar identifies the heretics in Aquitaine as 
"nuncii Antichristi." 

17. Allan Harris Cutler and Helen Elmquist Cutler, The Jew as Ally of the Mus- 
lim Medieval Roots of Anti-Semitism (Notre Dame, Indiana, 1986), 96. 


18. Jonathan Riley-Smith, "The First Crusade and the Persecution of the 
Jews," in Persecution and Toleration Studies in Church History 21 (Oxford, 
1984), 67. 

19. Riley-Smith, "The First Crusade and the Persecution of the Jews," 67- 

20. On the development of anti-Semitism in the early eleventh century see 
Robert Chazan, "1007—1012: Initial Crisis for Northern European Jews," 
American Academy for Jewish Research (1970—1971): 101—117, esp. 109—110, 
and Moore, Formation of a Persecuting Society, 29^i2. For Ademar's place in 
this emerging ant-Semitism see Daniel F. Callahan, "Ademar of Chabannes, 
Millenial Fears and the Development of Western Anti-Judaism," The Journal 
of Ecclesiastical History 46 (1995): 19—35. And for the general issue of anti- 
Semitism in the Middle Ages see Cutler and Cutler, Jew as Ally of the Muslim, 
esp. 94—96 and, especially, Joshua Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews The 
Medieval Conception of the Jew and its Relation to Modern Antisemitism (New 
York, 1961). 

21. Chronique, 3.52, 175. 

22. Trachtenberg, Devil and the Jews, 174. 

23. For Ademar's concern with heresy see Michael Frassetto, "The Sermons of 
Ademar of Chabannes and the Origins of Medieval Heresy," (Ph.D. diss., 
University of Delaware, 1993) and Michael Frassetto, "Reaction and Re- 
form: Reception of Heresy in Arras and Aquitaine in the Early Eleventh 
Century," Catholic Historical Review 83 (1997): 385^00. 

24. For the rebirth of heresy in the early eleventh century see Antoine Dondaine, 
"L'origine de l'heresie medievale," Rivista di storia della chiesa in Italia 9 
(1951): 47—78; Heinrich Fichtenau, "Zur Erforschung der Haeresien des 
11. und 12. Jahrhunderts," Romische Historische Mitteilungen 31 (1989): 
75—9 1 ; Heinrich Fichtenau, Heretics and Scholars in the High Middle Ages, 
1000-1200, trans. Denise A. Kaiser (University Park, PA, 1998); Richard 
Landes, "Between Aristocracy and Heresy: Popular Participation in the Lim- 
ousin Peace of God, 994—1033," in The Peace of God Social Violence and Re- 
ligious Response in France around the Year 1000, eds. Thomas Head and 
Richard Landes (Ithaca, NY, 1992), 184-218; R. I. Moore, The Origins of 
European Dissent, rev. ed. (London, 1985), 1—45. 

25. Chronique, 3. 49, 59 and 69, 173, 184-85, and 194. 

26. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillips, 1664, fol. 74v. 

27. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillips, 1664, fol. 83v. "Inpossibile enim est ut nullus 
Iudeus, Sarracenus, paganus, haereticus umquam salvus fiat nisi tantum illi 
qui in fide sancti Petri credunt." 

28. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillips, 1664, fol. 97r. 

29. See Delisle, "Manuscrits originaux dAdemar," 257—65 for discussion and 
partial edition of this sermon. See also my "Sermons of Ademar," 212—19. 

30. Interestingly, Peter the Venerable also identifies denial of the Trinity as the 
greatest of the Saracens' errors. Indeed, he begins his Summa Totius Haeresis 
Saracenorum, ed. Kritzeck, Peter the Venerable, 204—11, by stating that their 
greatest error is that "trinitatem in unitate deitatis negant." 


31. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillipps, 1664, fol. 84r. "Et Iudei et Sarraceni qui dicunt se 
credere unum Deum et dicunt quia nos Christiani credimus tres deos dum 
audiunt trinitatem patrem et filium et spiritum sanctum quia unus est 

32. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillips, 1664, fol. 84r. "Iudei autem et Sarraceni qui di- 
cunt non se credere sanctam trinitatem sed in unum Deum ideo nullum 
Deum credunt quia in sanctam trinitatem non credunt. Et magis ipsum 
verum Deum blasphemant et ad iracundiam provocant quia tollunt ab eo 

33. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillips, 1664, fol. 91r. "Sed multi Sarraceni sunt qui dicunt 
se credere in sanctam trinitatem sed non credunt incarnationem Domini." 
See also Callahan, "Ademar of Chabannes, Millennial Fears," 28, note 63, 
wherein he suggests that Ademar may be referring to the trinity of Ma- 
hound, Termagant, and Apollyon. 

34. Chronique, 3, 49, 173. See also the translation of this section and comments 
in Landes, "Between Aristocracy and Heresy," 207—13. 

35. D'Alverny, "Connaissance de l'lslam," 579—80 and Kritzeck, Peter the Ven- 
erable, 117 offer examples of other writers who combined Christian apology 
and anti-Muslim polemic. 

36. On the association of Arians and Sabellians and Saracens by twelfth-century 
writers see d'Alverny, "Deux Traductions," 75; Norman Daniel, Islam and 
the West: The Making of an Image (Edinburgh, 1962), 184-87, and Kritzeck, 
Peter the Venerable, 141 — 45. 

37. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillipps 1664, fol. 84r. "Sunt haeretici qui dicuntur non 
Catholici sed Sabelliani qui credunt male ut una sit tantum persona in Deo 
et in non tres sicut est una persona in unus homine . . . credunt unam solam 
personam et ita in sua stulta credulitate confundunt hoc est permiscent tres 
personas quae tres personae in veritate sunt pater et filius et spiritus sanctus." 

38. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillips, 1664, fol. 84r. 

39. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillips, 1664, fol. 84r. See also fols. 87r and 89v. 

40. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillips, 1664, fol. 91r. 

41. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillips, 1664, fol. 90r. "... putant se credere in patrem 
quasi in uno creatore quasi solus pater creator sit omnium . . ." 

42. Summa Totius Haeresis Saracenorum, edited in Kritzeck, Peter the Venerable, 

43. Cited in Daniel, Islam and the West, 185. 

44. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillipps 1664, fol. 84r. 

45. Yves Congar, "Arriana haeresis comme designation du neo-manicheisme au 
Xlle siecle," Revue des sciences philosophiques et theologique 43 (1959): 

46. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillipps 1664, fol. 85r. 
47- Jones, "Conventional Saracen," 203. 

48. D.S. MS. Lat. Philipps 1664, fol. 91r. 

49. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillips, 1664, fol. 91r. "Et sicut in verum Deum, qui vera 
pax est, non credunt ita alter alteri numquam dat osculum pacis." 


50. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillips, 1664, fol. 91r. See Aran Gurevich, Medieval Popu- 
lar Culture: Problems of Belief and Perception, trans. Janos Bak and Paul 
Hollingsworth (Cambridge, 1988), 48, where he notes that "inversions of 
every sort in medieval literature (movement against the sun's course, reading 
prayers backwards, kissing the anus, etc.) were invariably seen as the inter- 
ference of evil. This was the way sorcerers, witches, heretics, and even Satan 
himself behaved!" For further discussion and citation, see Callahan, "Ademar 
of Chabannes, Millennial Fears," 19—35, especially 29. 

51. D.S.MS. Lat. 1664, fol. 91r. 

52. D.S., MS. Lat. Phillips, 1664, fol. 91r. 

53. For Ademar's concern with marriage see Michael Frassetto, "Heresy, 
Celibacy, and Reform in the Sermons of Ademar of Chabannes," in Me- 
dieval Purity and Piety: Essays on Medieval Clerical Celibacy and Religious Re- 
form, ed. Michael Frassetto (New York and London, 1998), 131-148. On 
the development of Western marital practices see Georges Duby, The Knight, 
the Lady and the Priest: The Making of Modern Marriage in Medieval France, 
trans. Barbara Bray (Chicago, 1983), 57-120. 

54. Duby, The Knight, the Lady aiid the Priest, 57— 120. A similar remark is made 
about heretics by Guibert of Nogent in De Vita Sua, 3.17, Patrologia cursus 
completus series Latina 156: 951. 

55. Trachtenberg, Devil and the Jews, 43. 

56. Moore, Formation of a Persecuting Society, 100, finds a similar association in 
the image of Jews, lepers, and heretics. 

57. A similar association between heretics, Jews, and Muslims will be drawn by 
Guibert of Nogent. Concerning this association see John F. Benton, Self and 
Society in Medieval France (Toronto, 1984), 10. 

58. Chronique, 3.49, 173. "Abstinentes a cibis, quasi monachi apparebant et 
castitatem simulabant, sed inter se ipsos omnem luxuriam exercebant." 

59. Chronique, 3.59, 185. "... penitus Christum latenter respuerant, et ab- 
hominationes et crimina, quae dici etiam flagitium est." 

60. Paul of St. Pere de Chartres, Gesta synodi Aurelianensis, Bouquet, X, 538. For 
heresy at Orleans see R.-H. Bautier, "L'Heresie d'Orleans et le mouvement 
intellectuel au debut du Xle siecle. Documents et hypotheses," in Enseigne- 
ment et vie intellectuelle (LXe-XVLe Siecle) (Paris, 1975), 63—88. 

61. Amy Remensnyder, "Pollution, Purity and Peace: An Aspect of Social Re- 
form between the Late Tenth Century and 1076," in The Peace of God Social 
Violence and Religious Response in France around the Year 1000, ed. Thomas 
Head and Richard Landes (Ithaca, NY, 1992), 280-307. See also the essays 
in Medieval Purity and Piety, ed. Frassetto. 

62. Moore, Formation of a Persecuting Society, 89. 

63. Moore, Formation of a Persecuting Society, 89. 

64. Moore, Formation of a Persecuting Society, 5. 

Chapter Four 

Muslims as Pagan 

Idolaters in Chronicles 

of the First Crusade 

John V. To I an 

In the Chronicles of the Archbishops ofSalzburgvte find the story of Arch- 
bishop Thiemo, who died in the crusade of 1 1 1 . ' Thiemo, we are told, 
along with Duke Welf of Bavaria, led a group of Bavarians and Swabi- 
ans toward Jerusalem (already under Christian rule). As they approached the 
holy city, these crusaders were surrounded and defeated "by an innumerable 
multitude of gentiles (ethnici)." These pagans were led by three brothers 
from Corosan "who in their ferocity were more tyrannical and in their cult 
more pagan than [the Roman Emperor] Decius" — an emperor best known 
for his brutal persecutions of Christians. These "pagans" were angered by the 
recent victory of the crusaders and eager to wreak vengeance on Christian 
pilgrims. 2 They led Thiemo and other pilgrims away into slavery. One day 
their king discovered that Thiemo had been trained as a goldsmith, so he 
asked him to repair a golden idol. Thiemo asked for a hammer and ap- 
proached the idol. He addressed the demon inhabiting the idol, ordering it 
in the name of God to leave the statue. When the demon uttered blas- 
phemies, Thiemo smashed the idol with his hammer. This led to his mar- 
tyrdom: he was thrown into prison, brought out the next day, put on an ass, 
whipped, and brought to an arena before the throngs; there the king accused 
him of sacrilege. Thiemo replied that the idols were not gods but demons, 

98 John V. Tolan 

and preached that the king should desist from the worship of Saturn, Jove, 
and the obscene Priapus. The king responded by ordering that all Thiemo's 
fingers be cut off, as well as those of his followers, and that their limbs then 
be lopped off. As the king drank the martyrs' blood, Thiemo commended 
his soul unto God, and the crowd saw a choir of angels descend to take up 
the souls of the martyrs. Nearby, we are told, was an idol named Machmit, 
whom the pagans were wont to consult as an oracle. A demon began to 
speak through Machmit, saying that this had been a great victory for the 
Christians, "whose glory grows against us daily." He warned the pagans not 
to attempt to stop the Christians from celebrating the saint's funeral. 
Thiemo was buried in a church and miracles ensued: he healed the blind, 
deaf, lepers, and possessed, both among Christians and among pagans. Woe 
to those who attempt to violate his sanctuary; they face immediate death. 
For this reason, we are told, the pagans held Saint Thiemo in respect and did 
not pester any of his pilgrims. 

The story of Thiemo gives us a vivid portrait of the enemy that the cru- 
saders went off to fight, as they imagined him, or at least as their chroniclers 
imagined them. The picture shocks us both for its hostility and for its wild 
inaccuracy. If earlier medieval texts imagined that the Saracens were pagans, 5 
none of them developed the caricature in such detail, none portrayed such 
technicolor horror: a king who worships golden idols, seeks out Christian 
pilgrims, and delights in ripping their limbs off and drinking their blood. 
This portrait is pieced together with images from the stories of the early 
martyrs of the church, stories very familiar to clerical authors through the 
daily monastic reading of the martyrologies. 

While few of the Latin chroniclers of the First Crusade will imagine their 
Saracen enemies in as quite vividly hostile terms, they will not present them 
in ways that contradict this malicious caricature. Almost all of these chron- 
iclers describe Saracens as pagans, and most of them present the crusaders' 
victory as part of the age-old struggle with paganism, as part of the culmi- 
nating events that will result in the eradication of paganism and — for 
some — the Second Coming of Christ. Their idols are at times called Jupiter, 
Apollo, or Mahomet; chroniclers of the First Crusade occasionally refer to 
their adversaries as "Mahummicolae": "Muhammad-worshippers." 7 The 
terms "Muslim," "Islam," and their equivalents are never used. 

To make sense of the crusade, the twelfth-century chronicler placed it in 
the context of the age-old struggle between Christianity and paganism. Ear- 
lier writers described Muslims as pagans, at times basing their descriptions 
on biblical or Roman descriptions of pre-Muslim Arabs. Only at the turn of 
the twelfth century, however, is this supposed "paganism" described in vivid 
detail, its Active contours clearly delineated. The epic descriptions of battles 
against the Saracens demanded a vivid and colorful enemy, one against 


whom war was justified and victory was glorious. Fighting against pagans, 
crusaders could claim to be wreaking vengeance for the pagans' crucifixion 
of Christ and their usurpation of His city; when they fell in battle, they 
could claim the mantle of martyrdom. The fight against paganism had a 
long history, one in which Christianity was sure to emerge victorious. 

Many scholars have described how the First Crusade represented a radi- 
cal new form of piety, a strange mixture of pilgrimage and military ardor: 
humbly submitting to God's will while aggressively attacking one's enemy. 8 
The paradoxical nature of the crusade is perhaps best captured in the image 
of the barefoot knights in procession around the walls of Jerusalem, days be- 
fore they capture it. In the words of crusader and chronicler Raymond 

it was ordered that . . . the priests prepare themselves for the procession, with 
crosses and relics of the saints and that the knights and all strong men follow 
them with trumpets and banners and barefoot, and that the armed men 
should march barefoot. 9 

If this strange hybrid, this armed pilgrimage, needed justification in the 
eyes of Christians back home in Europe, its success was a resounding vindi- 
cation: clearly the Christian knights had been right to cry out "Deus lo 
volt!"; clearly it was God's will that the crusaders take Jerusalem back from 
the "pagans." Yet the novelty of the endeavor, and its very success, forced 
Christian writers to contemplate how the crusade fit into the divine plan. If 
the crusade is indeed a working out of God's will, how does one fit it into 
the context of divine history? 

A number of participants in the First Crusade wrote firsthand accounts 
of the crusade that were soon read and reworked by monastic writers in Eu- 
rope. 10 The anonymous Gesta Francorum, believed by many scholars to be 
the earliest of these chronicles, consistently refers to the crusaders' foes as 
"pagans" and twice has its leaders swear oaths by their God "Machomet." 11 
Yet, other than this, it has little to say about who these pagans are, what their 
religious rituals are, or why the Christians are justified in taking land from 
them. Other Christian writers felt a need to explain the crusades, to place 
them in Christian history and eschatology as a key part of the long, hard 
fight against paganism: a fight, however, that the Bible promises will in the 
end result in Christian victory. 

Only one of the chroniclers of the First Crusade, Guibert of Nogent, 
acknowledges that the Saracens are monotheists and that Muhammad is 
their prophet, not their God. For the rest, it is pagans that the crusaders 
went off to fight, in order to take Jerusalem back from them and to wreak 
vengeance on them for the crucifixion — as well as for their subsequent 

ioo John V. Tolan 

blasphemies against Christ. Time and again, the chroniclers of the First 
Crusade cite the eradication of paganism as one of the key motives behind 
the crusade. Raymond d'Aguilers, for example, says that by God's mercy 
His army "stood forth over all paganism." 12 Raoul de Caen, in the preface 
to his Gesta Tancredi (which is both a narrative of the crusade and a poetic 
eulogy of the crusader Tancred), says that his subject is "that pilgrimage, 
that glorious struggle, which added to its inheritance our holy Mother 
Jerusalem, which extinguished idolatry and restored the faith." 13 

To understand how the image of Islam as paganism helps justify the 
crusade, let us look in detail at one account written by a participant in the 
First Crusade, Petrus Tudebodus. Tudebodus asserts (as do most of the 
chroniclers of the crusade) that the crusaders' amazing victory against 
enormous odds was the work of God, not man: that Christ awarded the fi- 
delity and valor of His army by granting it victory over innumerable pa- 
gans. This victory over paganism is part of the divine plan and a signal that 
the end of time is near. Tudebodus frequently compares the army of God 
with the Apostles, implicitly and explicitly: both spread the Christian 
faith, fought paganism, and received the palm of martyrdom. To a mod- 
ern reader these appear as drastically different behaviors: preaching the 
Gospel and passively accepting execution on the one hand, waging war on 
the other. Tudebodus will present these as essentially similar acts: the cru- 
saders are the new apostles and martyrs, ushering in a new age for Christ 
and His church. 

This purpose is clear from the first sentences of Tudebodus's History: 

In the year of our lord [109 5], 14 when that end grew near which the Lord 
each day shows to his faithful, and which He particularly shows in the Gospel, 
saying "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his 
cross, and follow me" [Matt. 16:24] there was a great commotion in all the 
regions of Gaul. If anyone wished zealously and with pure heart and mind to 
follow God and to faithfully bear the cross after him, he should not hesitate 
to quickly set out on the way to the Holy Sepulchre (via Sancti Sepulchri). 15 

Tudebodus here puts the crusade in an eschatological context: the end, he 
says, was drawing near (though he is careful to avoid saying exactly how 
near); he connects that end with the injunction to take up one's cross and 
follow Christ. God's command, which before could be understood only in 
its spiritual sense, was now literally being fulfilled before Tudebodus's eyes, 
as crusaders sewed on the cloth crosses that symbolized their pilgrimage vow, 
and literally followed Christ by setting off for His city. 16 

Throughout his History, Tudebodus in this way describes the crusaders in 
language taken straight from the Gospels, implicitly likening them to the 


Apostles and martyrs. He has Pope Urban II, at the Council of Clermont, 
say that "anyone who wishes to save his soul should not hesitate humbly to 
set off on the way of the Lord and the Holy Sepulchre [via Domini et Sancti 
Sepulchri]." 17 He puts in Urban's mouth words of scripture, urging his lis- 
teners to follow the injunctions that Christ gave to his disciples: 

Brothers, it is proper that you suffer many things in Christ's name, that is to say 
misery, poverty, persecution, poverty, illnesses, nudity, hunger, thirst and other 
things of this kind, as He himself said to his apostles: "It is proper that you suf- 
fer many things in my name. And do not be ashamed to speak before men; I my- 
self will give you a mouth and eloquence and a great reward will follow you." 18 

Won over by Urban's eloquence, Tudebodus tells us, these new apostles flock 
to Constantinople from all over Europe. 

Those who die will be described as martyrs, and here again descriptions of 
their martyrdom — like that of Thiemo — will often be modeled on those of 
the Apostles and early martyrs of the ancient church, who refused to offer sac- 
rifice to Roman idols and were subsequently put to death, and whose death 
stories (passiones) were part of the daily reading of these clerical writers. 19 

At Nicaea, Tudebodus tells us, a bishop preaches to a band of crusaders 
besieged by Turks, again using words from the Gospels that Jesus directed to 
the Apostles: 

Be everywhere strong in the faith of Christ, and fear not those who persecute 
you. As the Lord said: Fear not those who kill the body; indeed they cannot 
kill the soul.20 

This "persecution" lasts eight days, after which the Turks take the castle. We 
are told, in language redolent of the marfyrologies, that "Those who refused 
to renounce God were given the capital sentence . . . these first happily ac- 
cepted martyrdom for Christ's name." 21 Throughout the remainder of his 
narrative, Tudebodus emphasizes that the Christian dead are martyrs. 22 

If the crusaders are the new apostles, the Saracens play the familiar role 
of the pagan Roman persecutors: their paganism and barbarism are a neces- 
sary counterpart to the steadfast devotion of the crusaders/apostles. They are 
"Our enemy and God's . . . saying diabolical sounds in I know not what lan- 
guage." 23 The geographical and ethnic distinctions between these enemies 
are confused; at one point Tudebodus describes a castle "full of innumerable 
pagans: Turks, Saracens, Arabs, Publicans, and other pagans." 2 Many of the 
place names are familiar from the Bible; Tudebodus and other chroniclers as- 
sociate the pagans with the places where Antichrist is born and raised: Baby- 

io2 John V. Tolan 

Nothing illustrates Tudebodus's attitudes better than the scenes that 
come from his imagination, those he could not have seen. In the midst of a 
battle outside Antioch, for example, when the momentum turns in favor of 
the crusaders, Tudebodus tells us, "The women of the city came to the win- 
dows of the wall; the Christian women, seeing the miserable fate of the 
Turks, secretly clapped their hands, as was their custom. They clapped 
their hands to show that they were on the Christians' side; they did so "se- 
cretly" so that their glee would not be noticed by the Turks inside the city or 
out. What someone secretly clapping her hands looks like I don't know; but 
if her clapping could not be seen by the Turks, it presumably could not be 
seen by Tudebodus below, in the heat of battle. The scene is imagined by 
Tudebodus, and is meant to dramatize the solidarity (real or imagined) be- 
tween the Christians inside and their self-appointed liberators outside. 

In many of Tudebodus's fictive scenes, we see most clearly how he con- 
ceives of his pagan enemies: how they worship, how they see the Christian 
crusaders, how they see (or fail to see) their place in God's plan. Other 
chroniclers also indulge in such imaginary dialogues in the enemy camp; in- 
deed, some of these passages are almost identical to those in Tudebodus. 27 
Unrestrained by facts, these authors can let their imaginations paint a vivid 
caricature of their adversaries. Tudebodus, in particular, uses these scenes to 
show the continuity of pagan resistance to Christianity — and to the cru- 
sader/apostles; yet he has the pagans acknowledge that their days are num- 
bered, that their ultimate defeat at the hands of God and his warriors is 
swiftly approaching. 

Tudebodus, like the anonymous hagiographer of Thiemo, portrays the 
deaths of crusaders in terms taken from the martyrologies and passiones. This 
is easiest to do, of course, for the deaths he did not witness: he can imagine 
them as they should have happened. Rainaldus Porchetus, a crusader taken 
captive by the Turks of Antioch, Tudebodus tells us, is taken to the top of 
the city walls and told to implore the crusaders to pay a large ransom for his 
return. Instead Rainaldus urges the crusaders to persist, telling them to value 
his own life as nothing and that the city's defenders will be unable to hold 
out much longer. This advice earns him the praise of his comrades and death 
at the hands of his captors. After Rainaldus' exhortation to the crusaders 
from atop the walls of Antioch, the "Amiralius" who has him brought back 
down into the city bids him: 

Renounce your god whom you worship and in whom you believe, and believe 
in Malphumet and our other gods. If you do this, we will give you anything 
you ask: gold and silver, horses and mules, and many other trappings (orna- 
menta) which you might desire. And we shall give you wives and land, and 
much honor. 28 


Rainaldus responds by praying fervently to God, the angry Turkish admiral 
has his head cut off, and angels take the martyr's soul up to heaven. Still fu- 
rious, the admiral has all the pilgrims (i.e., crusader captives) in the city 
rounded up, stripped naked, and burned in a mass martyrdom. The crusade, 
for Tudebodus, makes historical, theological, and moral sense as part of a 
continuing struggle against paganism; the response of the good Christian — 
in the eleventh or twelfth century as in the third or fourth — is to resist the 
temptations of this world and steadfastly to face martyrdom. 

Martyrs, of course, are saints who produce miracles. While the Passion of 
Thiemo described standard miracles of cures and protection, Tudebodus's mar- 
tial martyrs produce a military miracle. After the Christians capture Antioch, 
they find themselves besieged in the city by a Muslim relief army led by Ker- 
bogha, the Atabeg of Mosul (whom Tudebodus calls Curbaan). One night 
during the siege, Tudebodus tells us, a priest named Stephen has a dream in 
which Christ comes to him, complains of the sins of the crusaders (who, in 
particular, are sleeping with pagan women) and urges penance on them. In re- 
turn, Christ promises, he will send to the aid of the crusaders "blessed George, 
and Theodore, and Demetrius, and all the pilgrims who have been killed in 
this voyage to Jerusalem." 29 Sure enough, when the battle ensued: 

innumerable armies came out of the mountains, on white horses, with white 
insignia (yexilla). Seeing this army, [the crusaders] did not know who they 
were, until they recognized that this was the aid from Christ, as He ordered 
them according to the priest Stephen. Their leaders were saint George, and 
blessed Demetrius, and blessed Theodore. 30 

The martyrs get to have their cake and eat it too: through death at the hands 
of pagans, they earn the palm of martyrdom; through a military miracle, 
they come back to rout the pagan host. And what more appropriate general 
for this celestial army than the knightly Saint George, who himself, as Tude- 
bodus reminds us elsewhere, also "in the name of Christ accepted martyr- 
dom from perfidious pagans"?' 11 While intervention by celestial armies is a 
common topos in both Muslim and Christian accounts of the crusades, only 
Tudebodus uses it to prove the sanctity of the new martyrs. 32 

The most vivid depictions of the pagan foe come from the scenes imag- 
ined inside the enemy camp. Just before this battle, Tudebodus describes a 
military council in which Curbaan proclaims that the Christian soldiers plan 
to expel the pagans from Asia Minor and Syria, beyond Corosan and the 
(Active) Amazon river. 33 He dictates a letter, describing his plight to "the 
Caliph our bishop, our king and sultan and most strong soldier" in Corosan, 
swearing "by Machomet and by the names of all the gods," that he will de- 
feat the Christians and conquer all the lands from Antioch to Apulia. 3 

104 John V. Tolan 

At this point Tudebodus indulges in high melodrama. He has Curbaan's 
mother arrive in tears, begging him, "in the names of the gods," not to fight 
with the Franks. 35 When Curbaan replies that his army is bigger and 
stronger than that of the Christians, his mother retorts that their God fights 
for them; as proof she cites King David (i.e., the Psalms): "disperse the na- 
tions that do not invoke Your name." 3 She goes on to explain that 

These Christians are called the sons of Christ, and by the mouths of prophets 
are called "children of promise" [Galatians 4:28] and by the apostles "heirs of 
Christ" [Romans 8:17]; they are those to whom Christ already granted his 
promised inheritance, saying: "From where the sun rises to the west will be 
your borders; no one will dare to stand against you." 37 

If Curbaan obstinately insists on fighting God's army, he will lose, she says 
in tears, and he will die within a year. Here we have a pagan woman who 
cites scripture to try to dissuade her son from fighting against God's army, a 
prominent pagan testifying to the superior power of Christ over the pagan 
gods. When Curbaan is still not convinced, she brings in arguments from 
pagan wisdom: 

Dearest son, over a hundred years ago it was discovered in our pages, and in 
all books of the pagans, that the Christian nation would be over us and would 
everywhere defeat us, and reign over pagans, and our nation would every- 
where be subject to them; but I do not know if it is to be now or rather in the 
future. And I, sorrowing, did not desist from following you to Aleppo, that 
beautiful city, where, pointing and acutely investigating, I looked at the stars 
in the sky, and sagaciously deliberating and with sedulous mind observing the 
planets, and the twelve signs of the zodiac, and innumerable lots, in all these 
things I saw that the Christian nation would be victorious everywhere. 38 

Curbaan, incredulous, says that he thought Bohemund and Tancred were 
the crusaders' gods, and that they each consume 2,000 cows and 4,000 pigs 
for lunch. His mother responds that they are mere mortals, but that the God 
who protects them is the invincible creator of heaven and earth, whose will 
no one may oppose. But Curbaan will not be deterred, and his mother leaves 
in grief. 39 

This melodramatic scene has been largely overlooked by historians of the 
crusades: it is, after all, useless if we seek to reconstruct the events of the cru- 
sade. It is crucial, however, for seeing how Tudebodus makes sense of the cru- 
sade: unobstructed by mere facts, he can construct the enemy he desires. The 
passage brings together several key elements in his justification of the crusade. 
One is the apocalyptic element: the time has come for Christians to take back 
the holy land and defeat pagans everywhere. This apocalypticism is evident 


not only through careful exegesis of the prophets, but even through the pagan 
arts of astrology and necromancy. In addition, Curbaan's mother emphasizes 
God's protective relationship with His army. She describes them in biblical 
language, as both the new apostles coming into Christ's inheritance and as the 
army of Israel, whose enemies the Lord disperses. 

A key scene in all of the chronicles of the First Crusade, of course, is the 
siege of Jerusalem itself, in which several chroniclers describe a confrontation 
between Christ and Machomet. When the Christians laid siege to Jerusalem, 
as we saw above, they made a penitential pilgrimage around the city, armed 
and barefoot. According to Tudebodus, when the Muslims of Jerusalem be- 
held the procession, they brought onto the city wall an idol of Machomet 
on a lance (or perhaps some sort of stick — asta is the Latin word), covered 
with a cloth. How the Christians knew this was Machomet is not ex- 
plained. The crucifix, confronted with the idol of Machomet, began to bleed 
miraculously. Here the idol Machomet combats Christ on the crucifix, and 
the crucifix will win. The Amiravissus (apparently the ruler of Jerusalem) 
subsequently laments the imminent fall of his city and twice invokes 
Machomet and the other gods. 

Far from being gratuitous window dressing, Petrus Tudebodus's descrip- 
tions of Saracen paganism form a key element in his justification of the cru- 
sade. Christianity has from the beginning been locked in a struggle with 
paganism: now the time has come — predicted both in scripture and in the 
stars — when Christ will vanquish the idols once and for all, and His people 
will come into His inheritance. The army of God is painted in the colors of 
the Bible, described both as the righteous army of Israel and as the new 
apostolate. The confrontation between God's army and the pagan army, like 
that between the crucifix and the idol of Machomet, can have only one out- 
come: victory. Themes essential to Christian history — pilgrimage, martyr- 
dom, and the fight against idolatry — combine to form a powerful apology 
for the crusade. 

Raymond d'Aguilers also makes Saracen paganism a central element in 
his chronicle; he depicts the crusade as vengeance against pagan blas- 
phemies. He describes a series of truces and alliances with Muslim leaders as 
if they implied that the rulers recognized the superiority of Christianity. 
Thus, when legates come from the King of Babylon (the Vizir of Egypt), 
"seeing the marvels that God worked for his followers, they glorified Jesus, 
son of the Virgin Mary, who treads potent tyrants underfoot for His poor 
followers." Similarly, the King of Caesaria, as he provides a market for the 
crusaders, acknowledges "I see that God has chosen this people." 

Almost all of the chronicles place great importance on the crusaders' bare- 
foot procession around Jerusalem days before they capture it. Tudebodus, we 
saw, has a crucifix bleed when confronted with an idol of Machomet. We 

106 John V. Tolan 

have already seen Raymond d'Aguilers' version of this procession; this is how 
he describes the Saracens' reaction to it: 

The Saracens and Turks went around inside the city, ridiculing us in many 
ways, putting many crucifixes on yokes [patibulis] on top of the walls, inflict- 
ing upon them lashes and insults. 

The pagans, according to Raymond, are reenacting the passion, retorturing 
Christ. Here is a striking parallel to the accusations made against Jews in the 
later Middle Ages: that they torture and mutilate crucifixes, icons, the Eu- 
charist, or even Christian children; the Jews are accused of ritually reenact- 
ing the Passion. Those stories, like this one, will be used to sanction acts of 
horrible violence: many a pogrom, from the thirteenth century to the twen- 
tieth, will be justified by such trumped-up accusations. For Raymond, this 
torturing of crucifixes, it seems, provides a justification for the terrible 
vengeance the crusaders are about to wreak on them. When he describes the 
massacre of Jerusalem's inhabitants after his capture, it is as a glorious, if per- 
haps overzealous, revenge: 

We came to the temple of Solomon [i.e., the Dome of the Rock mosque], 
where they [the Saracens] used to sing their rites and festivals. But what hap- 
pened there? If we speak the truth, we will be beyond belief. Suffice it to say 
that in the temple and porch of Solomon one rode in blood up to one's knees, 
and up to the horses' reins. This was truly a judgment [of God], that that 
place should receive their blood, since it endured for such a long time their 
blasphemies against God. ... I say that this day saw the weakening of all pa- 
ganism, the confirmation of Christianity, and the renovation of our faith. 

For Raymond d'Aguilers, the crusade — in all its bloodiness — is justifiable 
first and foremost as vengeance. The pagans, who crucified Christ, who con- 
tinue to crucify him in effigy, and whose rites pollute the sacred places of 
Jerusalem, deserve to have the wrath of God fall on them in the form of the 
crusaders' sword. For Raymond as forTudebodus, the Saracens supposed pa- 
ganism is a key element in vindicating the crusade. 

I have focused on Petrus Tudebodus and Raymond d'Aguilers because 
theirs are the two chronicles of the First Crusade (along with the Chanson 
d'Antioche, which we shall look at presently) in which Saracen paganism is 
such a central element of defense. If less central in the other chronicles, it is 
nonetheless omnipresent (except, as I mentioned earlier, in the chronicle of 
Guibert de Nogent). Even Anna Comnena, the Byzantine princess whose 
Alexiad chronicles the reign of her father, the emperor Alexius Comnenus, 
purveys the same image of Saracens as pagans. For Anna, the barbarians of 


Egypt and Libya "worship Mahumet with mystic rites" while the "Ish- 
maelites" worship Chobar, Astarte, and Ashtaoth. Anna, who is able to de- 
scribe in detail the theological errors of Bogomils and other Christian 
heretics, and whose work bristles with citations of Homer and Thucydides, 
is completely in the dark when it comes to the religion of the Turks. 

Many of the Latin chronicles contain differing versions of Tudebodus's 
fictive scenes of the enemy in colloquy (it is unclear which if any of the ex- 
isting chronicles is the original source of these stories). One fictive scene 
common to several of these chroniclers is a poetic lament put in the mouth 
of the "Amiravissus," who is supposed to be the pagan ruler of Jerusalem, 
when he sees that his city is about to fall to the crusaders. Robert the Monk, 
for example, has the Amiravissus grieve: 

We used to vanquish, and now we are vanquished; we used to be happy of 
heart, and now we are afflicted with sadness. Who can hold back the tears 
from his eyes and hold back the sobs breaking out of his heart? How long I 
have taken great pains to bring together this army; I have spent much time in 
vain. At great cost I brought together the most powerful soldiers in all the Ori- 
ent, and led them to this battle; and now I have brought them and their price 
to the end. . . . O Mathome, Mathome, who worshipped you with greater 
magnificence, in shrines of gold and silver, with beautifully decorated idols of 
you, and ceremonies and solemnities and every sacred rite? But here is how 
the Christians often insult us, because the power of the crucifix is greater than 
yours: for it is powerful on heaven and earth. Now it appears that those who 
confide in it are victorious, while those who venerate you are vanquished. But 
it is not the fault of our lack of care, for your tomb is more adorned than his 
with gold, gems, and precious things. 

One can see why this would make satisfying reading for the Christians back 
in Europe. Not only does the fictive lament insert melodrama and pathos 
into the narrative, but it drives home the superiority of Christianity to pa- 
ganism: the pagans are doomed to defeat against God, no matter how many 
armies they assemble or how much gold and precious stones they lavish on 
their idols. The idol is again confronted by the crucifix, and the crucifix 
wins. Once more, we see a powerful pagan brought low as he acknowledges 
the awesome power of God. 

Another equally fictitious but equally important event in several chronicles 
of the First Crusade is the discovery of an idol of Mahummet in the temple of 
the Lord, or temple of Solomon (where, as we saw, Raymond dAguilers grue- 
somely described knights riding in blood up to their knees). 50 Raoul de Caen 
wrote his Gesta Tancredi, in mixed prose and verse, sometime between Tancred's 
death in 1112 and Raoul's before 1131. Raoul glorifies (and exaggerates) Tan- 
cred's military achievements during and after the First Crusade. 51 He describes 

108 John V. Tolan 

Tancred encountering a huge silver idol of Mahummet in a mosque in 
Jerusalem, piously destroying it, and confiscating the silver: 

On a high throne sat a cast idol 
of heavy silver, . . . 

Tancred saw this and said: "For shame! 
"What does this mean? What is this sublime image? 
"What does this effigy mean, these gems, this gold? 
"What does this royal purple mean?" Now Mahummet 
Was crowned in gems and dressed in royal purple, and he glowed 
with gold. 

'Perhaps this is an idol of Mars or Apollo: 

'Is it Christ? These are not the insignia of Christ, 

'Not the cross, not the crown of thorns, not the nails, not the water 
from his side. 

Therefore this is not Christ: rather it is ancient Antichrist, 

Mahummet the depraved, Mahummet the pernicious. 

O if this companion is here now, he will be here in the future! 

Now I will crush both Antichrists with my foot! 

For shame! The companion of the Abyss holds sway in the Arc of God. 

"It will tumble down quickly, without doubt it will yet tumble!" 

Immediately it was ordered, you will see it already done, 

Each soldier gladly fulfilling the order 

It was broken, dragged down, smashed, cut down. 

The material was precious but vile; the form 

Thus destroyed, the vile was made precious. 52 

The Temple of Solomon has become the center of the cult of the pagan 
idol of Mahummet; we saw that, for Raymond d'Aguilers, the "blasphemies" 
that the Satacens performed in the Temple (in fact, the Dome of the Rock 
Mosque) called down the righteous vengeance of God in the form of a 
bloody massacre. But Raymond did not say what these "blasphemies" were; 
Raoul provides a vivid image of them: a silver idol of the pagan God 
Mahummet. Tancred, first thinking the statue might be one of Mars or 
Apollo, finally realizes that it is Mahummet, whom he also calls Antichrist. 
The destruction of this profane image, intruder into the Temple of the Lord, 
provides a dramatic, vindictive climax to the First Crusade. 

The fight against paganism had long meant the destruction of idols; chron- 
iclers such as Raoul de Caen had no foibles about ascribing such exploits to the 
crusaders. This places the crusade in a clear historical context, the culmination 
of the struggle that was begun by the infant Jesus himself; did he not desttoy 
idols during the flight into Egypt, according to the apocryphal Gospels? 53 


Such continuity is explicit in the Chanson d'Antioche, which makes the 
crusade central to Christian eschatology by having Christ himself predict it. 
In this twelfth-century epic (which claims to be the work of a crusader) the 
narrative opens with the crucifixion: Christ himself, speaking to the good 
thief crucified at his side, predicts the eventual arrival of the crusaders. He 
foretells that a "new people," the Franks, will avenge the crucifixion, liber- 
ate the holy land, and eliminate paganism: 

Friends, said Our Lord, know 

That from across the sea a new people will come 

They will exact vengeance for the death of their Father 

No pagans shall remain from here to the East 

The Franks will liberate all the earth 

And for those who were taken and killed in this manner 

Material weapons will secure our salvation 55 

Here again, the paganism of the Saracens is a key element in the theo- 
logical justification of the crusade: the pagans killed Jesus, and the crusaders 
will wreak vengeance on the pagans for the murder of their "father." The 
Jews were frequently blamed for the crucifixion, and it is during the First 
Crusade that the call for vengeance will lead crusaders to massacre Jews in 
Europe ; but the pagans were blamed for the crucifixion as well, and 
vengeance against them was sought. Through this vengeance, the crusaders 
will "save" Jesus and his followers. The Saracens must be pagans in order to 
be appropriate objects of vengeance. 57 

Unsurprisingly, the Chanson gives us a vivid picture of Saracen idolatry, 
along with a glowing account of the idols' destruction, heralding the im- 
minent demise of paganism. As in other texts concerning the conversion of 
idolaters, the ultimate and most satisfying testimony to the impotence of 
the idols is their repudiation and destruction by their own devotees (or in 
the story ofThiemo, the recognition of Christian superiority by the idol 
Machmit itself). 

The center of the pagan cult, for the Chanson d'Antioche, is Mahomet, an 
idol held in mid-air by magnets. 58 A defeated Saracen general, Sansadoines, 
strikes the idol, knocking it down and breaking it after it has shown itself 
powerless to secure victory for its devotees. Here again, the pagan enemy 
himself realizes the powerlessness of his idols and destroys them with his own 
hand. Sansadoines then predicts to the Saracens that they will be defeated by 
the Christians who will "break the walls and palisades of Mieque [Mecca], 
will take Mahomet down from the pedestal where he is placed, [and will take] 
the two candelabra that sit there." 59 At the end of the poem the crusader 
Godfrey of Bouillon vows to take "Mahomet of Mieque" in virtually the same 

no John V. Tolan 

words. The conquest of Mieque, the Saracens' cultic center, will mark the 
ultimate defeat of paganism. 

The Chanson d'Antioche describes, in vivid detail, an embassy to Mieque, 
which is ruled over by three brothers : hymns are sung to the golden idol 
Mahomes, the "Apostle Caliph of Bauda" (presumably Baghdad) presides over 
a grand "parlement." The Saracens, through enchantment, have caused a 
demon, Sathanas, to inhabit the idol of Mahomes, which now speaks to them. 
"Christians who believe in God," says Sathanas/Mahomes, "this lost people, 
have no rights on earth, they have taken it in great error. Let God keep heaven; 
the earth is in my fiefdom [baillie] . The Caliph then announces a "rich par- 
don that Mahons will give us," a sort of inversion of the indulgences that 
Urban II granted the crusaders: Mahons will allow every man who fights the 
Christians to have 20 or 30 wives, or as many as he wishes. Those who die in 
battle will bring to the gates of heaven two bezants in one hand and a rock in 
the other: with the bezants they can buy their way into heaven, or if that fails, 
with the rock they can force their way in. Again an inversion or parody, this 
time of the hope of martyrdom proffered to the Christian crusader. The pagan 
enemy, it seems, is a deformed mirror image of the righteous crusader, devoted 
to the Devil rather than God, granted indulgences by the Caliph of Bagh- 
dad/Mecca rather than the pope, hoping to buy or fight his way into heaven. 

As with Petrus Tudebodus and the Passion ofThiemo, the pagan adversaries 
are themselves made to acknowledge — both before and after the conflict — 
the inevitability of their defeat at the hands of the Christians. Sansadoines, as 
we have seen, predicts that the Christians will take Mecca. Later in the poem, 
his fears are confirmed by a dream, which he narrates to Corbarans (i.e., Ker- 
bogha): he stands before Antioch and sees "Out of Antioch issued a leopard 
and a boar, a snake, bear, and dragon, to devour our people." Solimans, one 
of Corbarans's men, responds that Mahons is very powerful and would never 
let this happen to his people. As in Tudebodus, Corbarans is warned but 
heeds not the warnings. Corbarans's mother soon arrives and (as in Tudebo- 
dus) warns him to desist: his defeat is predicted by the stars. 

Corbarans himself, as he sees his defeat, calls one last time on Mahmet, 
this time to curse and threaten him: 

"Oh, Lord Mahmet! How I used to love you 
And to serve and honor you with all my might! 
If ever I may return one day to my country 
I will burn you and reduce you to powder 
Or I will have you trampled by horses." 

Once again, Christian victory over paganism culminates in the pagan 
leader's rejection and destruction (even if, as here, only threatened) of his 


idols. In the Conquete de Jerusalem, the Caliph himself decapitates the 

idol Mahon. 67 

The First Crusade, if we are to believe these chroniclers, is as much a fight 
over time as it is over space: the struggle is to reestablish the age of Christ 
and His Apostles in the land in which they lived, preached, and died. The 
crusaders win over the pagans by reenacting the struggles of the Apostolic 
age, by staining — or purifying — the holy soil with the blood of new martyrs, 
thus causing, once again, the destruction of the idols. The patent falseness 
of this image of the Muslim enemy is obvious to anyone with a rudimentary 
knowledge of Islam. It was anything but obvious, however, to those who 
read these stories: to them (as, perhaps, to many of the crusaders themselves) 
the image rang true. The stories helped them make sense of the struggles 
they faced, the risks they ran, the death they or their comrades faced. They 
helped glorify the enterprise of the crusade and put it solidly in the context 
of Christian history, of the divine plan. 


1. The crusade of 1101, launched to support and defend the new Crusader 
states in the Levant, was an unmitigated failure. Welf, Thiemo, and their 
men were ambushed by the Seljuks near Ereghli: many died, many (includ- 
ing Thiemo) were taken captive, and Welf managed to escape. See Jonathan 
Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (Philadelphia, 
1986), 120-34. 

2. Passio Thiemonis archiepiscopi (MGH SS 11:51-62) §11, 58; see Karl Mor- 
rison, Understanding Conversion (Charlottesville, 1990), 137—38. 

3. Such confrontation is a common trope in texts about conversion of pagans 
to Christianity. In some cases missionaries destroy idols, in others the new 
converts destroy their former idols; most dramatic are stories in which divine 
power (at times invoked by missionaries) causes the idols to crumble and 
fall. See Michael Camille, The Gothic Idol: Ideology and Image-making in Me- 
dieval Art (Cambridge, 1989), esp. the discussion of Saracen idols, 129—64. 

4. Passio Thiemonis, §15, 61. 

5. See John V. Tolan, Introduction, in Medieval Christian Perceptions of Islam: 
A Book of Essays ed. John V. Tolan (New York, 1995); Benjamin Z. Kedar, 
Crusade and Mission: European Approaches toivard the Muslims (Princeton, 
1984), 86ff. 

6. The Martyrologium, which in the early Middle Ages had been a simple cal- 
endar of saints' feast days, by the eleventh century often contains brief nar- 
ratives of the passions of the various martyrs; these were to be read daily. See 
Bernard Gaiffier, "De l'usage et de la lecture du martyrologe," Analecta Bol- 
landiana 79 (1961): 40—59; Bernard Gaiffier, "A propos des legendiers 
latins," Analecta Bollandiana 97 (1979): 57-68. 

> John V. Tolan 

7. The term occurs six times in Raoul de Caen's Gesta Tancredi (Recueil des his- 
toriens des croisades: historiens occidentaux), 5 vols. (Paris, 1844—95), hereafter 
abbreviated RHC occ, 3:620, 670, 679, 691, 698, 705). The anonymous 
Tudebodus imitatus et continuatus contains the term "machumicolae" twice 
(RHC occ. 3:220, 227). 

8. The bibliography on the First Crusade is vast. For a good introduction to 
both the events of the crusade and cultural and social forces that shaped it, 
see Jean Flori, La premiere croisade (Paris, 1992). The most recent general 
work in English is John France, Victory in The East: A Military History of the 
First Crusade (Cambridge, 1994); the best introduction to the subject in 
English remains that of Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Idea 
of Crusading. See also Bernard McGinn, "Iter Sancti Sepulchri: the Piety of 
the First Crusaders," in The Walter Prescott Webb Lectures: Essays in Medieval 
Civilization, ed. Richard E. Sullivan (New York, 1978). For bibliography on 
the crusades, see Kenneth Setton, gen. ed., History of the Crusades, vol. 6 
(Philadelphia, 1984). 

9. Raymond d'Aguilers, Liber, eds. John H. & Lorira L. Hill (Paris, 1969), 

10. The relations between these texts, and the scholarly disputes surrounding 
them, are too complex for me to give justice to them here. The best intro- 
duction to the subject is Jean Flori, "Des chroniques a l'epopee . . . ou bien 
l'inverse?," Perspectives medievales 20 (1994): 36^3. See also Riley-Smith, 
First Crusade, 135—52; Suzanne Duparc-Quioc, La Chanson d'Antioche: 
Etude critique (Paris, 1978). J. and L. Hill's introduction to their edition of 
Petrus Tudebodus, Historia de Hierosolymitano itinere (Paris, 1977) and John 
France, Victory in the East, 374—82. 

11. Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolimitanorum, ed. and trans. Louis Brehier 
(into French), Histoire anonyme de la premiere croisade (Paris, 1924), 118 and 

12. Raymond d'Aguilers, Liber, 35. 

13. Raoul de Caen, Gesta Tancredi, prefatio (RHC occ. 3:603). 

14. Tudebodus erroneously gives 1097- 

1 5 . Petrus Tudebodus, Historia de Hierosolymitano itinere, 3 1 . 

16. Both Robert the Monk and Guibert of Nogent also saw the crusades as lit- 
eral fulfillments of biblical prophecies that had previously been understood 
in the spiritual or allegorical senses; see Riley-Smith, First Crusade, 142—43. 
The passage (along with many others, some of which I will draw attention 
to in the notes) is almost identical to Gesta Francorum, 2. This could mean 
that Tudebodus is using the Gesta or vice versa, or that they have a common 
source (now lost) that they both employ. For the scholarly debate on the pri- 
macy of these various sources, see above, note 10. 

17. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 32. 

18. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 32. 

19. On the idea of martyrdom in the chronicles of the First Crusade, see Flori, 
"Mort et martyre des guerriers vers 1 100," Cahiers de Civilization Medievale 


34 (1991): 121-39; Riley-Smith, First Crusade, 151-52; and Cowdrey, 
"Martyrdom and the First Crusade," Crusade and Settlement, ed. P. W. Ed- 
bury (Cardiff, 1985), 47—56. On the daily reading of martyrologia and pas- 
siones, see above, note 6. 

20. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 35; Matthew 10:28. 

21. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 35—36. According to J. and L. Hill (see their notes 
to the text, 35—36) Tudebodus is here using language from martyrologies. 

22. For example, see Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 50, 75, in addition to the pas- 
sages discussed below. 

23. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 51. 

24. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 128. 

25. Babylon, conveniently, is the name not only of the city on the Euphrates 
identified with Antichrist but also of an important fortress outside of Cairo: 
hence the ruler of the Egyptians, in many crusade chronicles, is referred to 
as the King of Babylon. See Petrus Tudebodus, 73, 77, 148; Raymond 
d'Aguilers, 58, 110. Corosana, mentioned in Matthew 11:21 and Luke 
10:13, is associated in crusader chronicles with the Turks. See Petrus Tude- 
bodus 36, 37, 49, 73, 89, 91, 92, 113; Raymond d'Aguilers, 56, 87; Chan- 
son d'Antiocbe, ed. Suzanne Duparc-Quioc (Paris, 1977), w. 4790, 5080, 
9379, 9387- On the association of these places with the Antichrist, see Li- 
bellus de Anticbristo (Patrologia cursus completus series Latina 101:1293). Both 
Raymond dAguilers and Ekkehard of Aura use "Hispania" to refer to the 
areas under Saracen control; this suggests that they saw a close parallel be- 
tween the fight against the Saracens in both East and West. See Raymond 
dAguilers, Liber, introduction by John and Laurita Hill, 13 and their note 
at p. 50. 

26. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 76; almost identical is the description in Gesta 
Francorum, 94. 

27. On the complex relations between these various texts, see above, note 10. 

28. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 79—80. Rainaldus Porchetus's martyrdom is also 
described in the Chanson d'Antiocbe w. 3972^038; see Duparc-Quioc, La 
Chanson dAntioche: Etude critique, 198—99, 212—14. Riley-Smith (Fhe First 
Crusade, 115) takes these descriptions of Rainaldus's martyrdom, it seems, at 
face value. 

29. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 100. This vision is also described in the Gesta 
(128—30), but their is no mention made of the martyrs; Christ merely 
promises a "magnum adiutorium." 

30. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 112. This is almost identical to the passage in 
the Gesta, 1 54, though there, it will be remembered, there was no mention 
of the fallen crusader/martyrs participating in the vengeance. 

31. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 134. 

32. Raymond dAguilers has celestial warriors lead Christians into battle (45) 
and says that many people saw Ademar of Le Puy lead the crusaders into 
Jerusalem (151). Ademar, papal legate and leader of the Crusade, had died 
in Antioch, but was not martyred. Saint George also leads celestial armies 

4 John V. Tolan 

into battle in the Gesta (155), Robert the Monk (RHC 3:832), and Chan- 
son d'Antioche, w. 2179 and 9063. 

33. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 91. 

34. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 92. This same language is used in the later 
abridgement of his chronicle (the so-called Tudebodus abbreviatus) at RHC 
oc. 3:194. 

35. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 93. 

36. Psalm 79:6 (Vulgate 78:6); Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 94. 

37. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 94. 

38. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 95—6. 

39. The interview between Kerbogha and his mother is described in almost 
identical terms in the Gesta, 118—24. 

40. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 37- 

41. Petrus Tudebodus, Historia, 147—48; cf. the Tudebodus abbreviatus (RHC 
oc. 3:163). 

42. The parallels between the crusading army and the army of the Israelites is 
made by other chroniclers of the First Crusade, including Robert the Monk, 
Baldrid of Dole, and Guibert of Nogent; see Riley-Smith, First Crusade, 

43. Raymond d'Aguilers, 58. 

44. Raymond d'Aguilers, 103. Robert the Monk and Guibert of Nogent also 
refer to the Franks as God's chosen people; see Riley-Smith, First Crusade, 

45. Raymond d'Aguilers, 145. Earlier, during the siege of Marra, Raymond tells 
us, the Saracens, "ut maxime nos provocarent, cruces super muros ponentes 
multis inuriis eas afficiebant" (94). 

46. See Gavin Langmuir, History, Religion, and Antisemitism (Berkeley, 1990), 
298—303; Gavin Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism (Berkeley, 
1990), chapters 9, 11, and 12; Joshua Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews: 
a medieval conception of the Jews and its Relation to Modern Antisemitism 
(Philadelphia, 1983); R. Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder: Jews and 
Magic in Reformation Germany (New Haven, 1988). 

47. Raymond d'Aguilers, 150-51. 

48. Anna Comnena, Alexiad, trans. E. Sewter (London, 1969), 211—12, and 

49. Robertus Monachus, chapter 21 (RHC occ 3:878); cf. the similar treatment 
in the chronicle by Baudri of Dole (RHC occ. 4:110). In the Historia et 
Gesta ducis Gotfridi (RHC 5:501), it is the "miraldus Babiloni" who gives 
long lament on hearing of the fall of Jerusalem. 

50. For example: "Hoc templum dominicum in veneratione magna cuncti Sar- 
raceni habuerant, ubi precationes suas lege sua libentius quam alibi fa- 
ciebant, quamvis idolo in nomine Mahumet facto eas vastarent, in quod 
etiam nullum ingredi Christianum permittebant. Alteram templum, quod 
dicitur Salomonis, magnum est et mirabile." Fulcher of Chartres, Historia 
Iherosolymitana c. 26 (RHC occ. 3:357). He later says "Tancredus autem 


Templum dominicum festino cursu ingressus, multum auri et argenti, lapi- 
desque pertionsos arripuit. Sed hoc restaurans, eadem cuncta vel eis appreti- 
ata loco sacrosancto remisit, licet in eo nihil tunc deicum ageretur, quum 
Sarraceni legem suam idolatria supersitioso ritu exercerent, qui etiam Chris- 
tianum nullum in id ingredi sinebant." (c. 28, pp. 359—60). 

The chronicle known as Tudebodus imitatus et continuatus tells us that Tan- 
cred entered the temple, where he saw a huge silver statue of Mahomet en- 
throned. Comparing the statue to a crucifix, he proclaimed that this was not 
Christ but Antichrist and ordered his men to destroy it and put the silver to 
good use. Tudebodus imitatus et continuatus c. 124 (RHC oc. 3:222—23). 

51. On Raoul and his Gesta Tancredi, see Jean Charles Payen, "L'hegemonie nor- 
mande dans la Chanson de Roland et les Gesta Tancredi: De la Neustrie a la 
chretiente, ou Turolod est-il nationaliste?," in Romance Epic: Essays on a Me- 
dieval Literary Genre, ed., Hans-Erich Keller (Kalamazoo, 1987), 73—90; and 
Jean Charles Payen, "L'image du grec dans la chronique normande: sur un 
passage de Raoul de Caen," in Images et signes de I'Orient dans ['Occident 
Medieval (Aix-en-Provence, 1982), 267-80. 

52. Raoul de Caen, c. 129 (RHC occ. 3:695-696). 

53. See, for example, the Infancy Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, in The Other Bible, 
ed., Willis Barnstone (San Francisco, 1984), 397. 

54. The Chanson d'Antioche was perhaps composed in the early years of the 
twelfth century by a crusader, Richard the Pilgrim, though the surviving ver- 
sion is a late twelfth-century reworking attributed to Graindor de Douai. 
Suzanne Duparc-Quioc argues for the traditional attribution to Richard le 
Pelerin and Graindor and attempts to distinguish between the two versions 
(Duparc-Quioc. La Chanson d'Antioche: Etude critique). Robert F. Cook ar- 
gues against it in " Chanson d'Antioche, " chanson de geste: le cycle de la croisade 
est-il epique? (Amsterdam, 1980), 15—27. The attribution has subsequently 
been defended by Lewis Sumberg, "Au confluent de l'histoire et du mythe: 
la Chanson d'Antioche, chronique en vers de la premier croisade," in Les 
Epopees de la croisade, ed. Karl-Heinz Bender (Stuttgart, 1987), 58—65, and 
Herman Kleber, "Graindor de Douai: remanieur-auteur-mecene?" Karl- 
Heinz Bender, ed., Les Epopees de la croisade (Stuttgart, 1987), 66—75. See 
also Flori, "Des chroniques a l'epopee." 

55. Chanson d'Antioche, w. 205-11 (pp. 27—28). 

56. Robert Chazan, European Jewry and the First Crusade (Berkeley, 1987). 

57. This is complicated, in the Chanson d'Antioche, by a subsequent passage (w. 
218—248, pp. 28—29) identifying the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and 
Vespasian as vengeance for the crucifixion; this is standard Christian inter- 
pretation of the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and the subsequent 
Jewish diaspora. What is far from standard, however, is that the Chanson pre- 
sents Titus and Vespasian as Christians. 

58. Chanson d'Antioche, w. 489 Iff. This passage is discussed by Alexandre Eck- 
hardt, "Le Cercueil flottant de Mahomet," in Melanges de philologie romane 
et de litterature medievale offerts a E. Hoepffner: Publications de la Faculte des 

n6 John V. Tolan 

Lettres de I'Universite de Strasbourg, fasc. 113 (1949), 77—88.; Eckhardt 
(78—82) finds earlier legends of pagan statues held in the air by means of 
magnets, dating from the description of a floating idol of Serapis that, ac- 
cording to Rufinus de Aquilea, was in the Serapion of Alexandria. 

59. "De Mieke briseront les murs et le palis, 

Si trairont Mahomet de la forme u est mis, 
Et les deus candelabres qu'illuec sont assis." 

Chanson dAntioche yy. 4968—70. Earlier in the epic, the poet had ex- 
pressed the same prophecy in a slightly different form: 
"Et briseront de Mecke le mur et le pali, 
S'en trairont Mahomet et Appolin aussi, 
S'en donront for a eels qui Jhesu ont servi. 
Benoite soit li terre u il furent norri!" 
Chanson d'Antioche, w. 3447—3450. 

60. "Trosqu'el regne de Perse irai por conquester, 
N'i larai bore ne vile ne tor a craventer 
Vostre amiral Soudan i ferai encroer 

U a un gros takele les iex del cief forer; 
Par Mahomet de Mieque m'en vaurai retorner 
Por les. II. candelabres qu'en ferai aporter, 
Tres devant le Sepucre puis le ferai poser." 
Chanson dAntioche w. 9242^48, p. 454. 

In the Chanson de Jerusalem, Godfrey of Bouillon swears that he will con- 
quer Mecca and take the golden candelabra that stand before the idol of 

"Dusqu'a Mieque le vielle ne lairai en estant 
Tor ne palais de marbre ne voise cravenant, 
Et les grans candelabres devant Mahon ardant 
Meterai el Sepucre u Dex fu suscitant 
Et Mahon Gomelin, en qui il sont creant, 
Liverrai as ribals qui'n feront lor talant — 
Les bras et les costes li ierent pecoiant 
Si en trairont les pieres et Tor arrabiant. 
Et l'amiral mei'sme, s'il ne laist Tervagant, 
Jo li ferai forer le.II. iex par devant, 
U le cief li taurai a m'espee trencant. 
Jou nel pri ne ne l'aim le monte d'un bezant." 

La Chanson de Jerusalem w. 7276—7287, The Old French Crusade Cycle, 
vol. 6, ed., Nigel Thorpe (Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1992). 

61. The similarities between this section of the Chanson and sections of Passion 
ofThiemo may indicate that the author of the Passion was familiar with the 
Chanson or vice versa. This section if probably one of the passages added by 
Graindor de Douai in the late twelfth century (Duparc-Quioc, 105). Later 
writers, including Marco Polo, also tell of the legendary three brother-kings 
(see Chanson dAntioche, 269n). 


62. Chanson d'Antioche, w. 5310—12. 

63. Chanson d'Antioche, w. 5323^47- 

64. Chanson d'Antioche, w. 6620— 21 . 

65. She appears three times in the Chanson d'Antioche, where her name is Cal- 
abre: w. 766-73, 5252-68, 6838-6956. Duparc-Quioc (105-06) says that 
the first episode is an addition by Graindor de Douai, while the second was 
probably part of the original by Richard le Pelerin. 

66. Chanson d'Antioche, w. 91 1 1—16, p. 448. 

67. Duparc-Quioc, 57, n. 48. 

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Chapter Five 

The Essential Enemy: 

The Image of the 

Muslim as Adversary 

and Vassal in the 

Law and Literature 

of the Medieval 

Crown of Aragon 

D on aid ] . K^a g ay 

One of the truly unforeseen consequences of the downfall of the 
Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics was the disappearance of 
the orchestrated enmity of the world's two superpowers that has 
come to be called the Cold War. This struggle was not merely the military 
and geopolitical rivalry of two jealous powers but, thanks to impact of a vir- 
ulent nationalism, exercised the emotional appeal of a religion. Despite the 
obvious perils of such a situation in that two equally mighty adversaries 
were on constant alert to strike or parry the first blow in an atomic Ar- 
mageddon, the Cold War gave to its participants a malleable enemy, one 
they could mold not from reality but rather from their own fears and weak- 
nesses. With the collapse of this doctrinal enmity in the late 1980s, the true 


complexities of life without "separate but equal" adversaries has dawned on 
the late twentieth-century world, in that narrow international hatreds seem 
much more complex than they are comforting. 1 Another era founded on 
such a dyad of detested but essential adversaries was that of medieval Spain, 
where Muslim stood against Christian along a frontier that functioned as 
both battle line and connector. The purpose of this paper is to review this 
history of hatred and interdependence by delineating the image of the Mus- 
lim in the Christian psyche as expressed in the law and literature of the me- 
dieval Crown of Aragon. 

The foundation of Christian literary response to the catastrophe of the 
Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula was understandably couched in 
Visigothic and monastic terms. In a number of works, including the con- 
tinuation of Isidore of Seville's History of the Kings of the Goths, Vandals and 
Suevi, the Islamic conquest was seen as a distinctly evil development that, 
however, was used by God to punish the sins of the Visigothic kingdom. 2 
The small band of Arab and Berber adventurers, that had so efficiently de- 
stroyed the decrepit realm of the Visigoths, was thus seen by Christian 
chroniclers as an instrument of God's wrath. They could not be considered, 
however, as purely neutral actors in this divinely inspired drama. Instead 
they were subject to a withering array of monastic invective (much of it hav- 
ing its origin in Byzantium) that typified them as "barbarians" or "followers 
of a false prophet." 3 As small Christian refugee communities withstood the 
Islamic onslaught and then began a slow expansion from the mountain fast- 
ness of Asturias, such leaders as Alfonso I (739—757) attempted to exculpate 
himself from the guilt of his Visigothic forbears by carrying out a godly 
vengeance on a Muslim populace that was routinely vilified as treacherous 
and cowardly. The images of the selfless Christian ruler — the "restorer of the 
fatherland" (restaurator patriae) as Alfonso I himself came to be called — and 
the faithless Muslim potentate became part of an evolving reconquest para- 
digm that spread across the medieval centuries. Despite the social and in- 
tellectual acculturation between Christian and Muslim in the centuries 
immediately after the conquest, the ideological line never faded but indeed 
deepened on both sides. Though given a legal status of sorts as a "protected 
minority" (dhimmi), the mozdrabes, Christians living under the rule of the 
Caliphate of Cordova or its political successors, the ta'ifas, could find their 
social and political lot a severely conscribed one. Their minority position 
often led them to a fanaticism such as that displayed in the martyrs' move- 
ment of ninth-century Toledo. 5 As Christian arms slowly destroyed the 
dominance of the Caliphate of Cordova over northern Spain, the mudejares, 
Muslims living under Christian rule, suffered similar vicissitudes of status. 

In the centuries after the Islamic conquest, war, along with acculturation 
on all social fronts, made the Muslim a known commodity within the Chris- 


tian realm. The sons of Islam in Al-Andalus and in the rest of the Islamic 
world, however, remained faceless enemies who had to be attacked by the 
Church Militant. 7 Even when this one-dimensional image of Islam in Chris- 
tian polemic was fleshed out in literature, the turning towards "reality" took 
place within the chivalric mirror of the chanson de geste. In the great classic 
of this genre, The Song of Roland, the Muslim adversary emerged as a bitter 
foe whose downfall caused general Christian rejoicing. He was also por- 
trayed with some regularity as a valiant opponent as well versed in the ways 
of chivalry as any Christian knight. 8 The contours of the Muslim enemy 
were thrown into much clearer relief by the great Castilian epic, The Poem 
of the Cid, a work replete with faithless Christians, honorable Muslims, and 
the formation or rupture of alliances across faith lines — a fairly accurate pic- 
ture of realpolitik in early reconquest Spain. 9 

Despite the wider focus given to the Muslim problem by literature, the 
mere presence of an Islamic state so close to the heart of Christian Europe 
was the source of increased war rather than accommodation between the 
two sides. As the eleventh century waned, local developments, such as the 
closing of pilgrimage privileges to Jerusalem, brought strident calls across 
Christendom for intervention, which were eventually answered with the ad- 
vent of the crusading movement. Far from the ideal of chivalric battle, where 
a man's strength was held in check by a code of honorable conduct, Christ- 
ian warriors on crusade could freely butcher or imprison their Muslim ad- 
versaries with the full material blessing and spiritual reward of the Church. 10 
With such an engine of ideological superiority and material reward to drive 
it, the great era of Christian reconquest and Muslim defeat was at hand in 
Spain and throughout the southern Mediterranean. 

Though it was the great central Iberian kingdom of Castile-Leon that 
conquered the heart of the Peninsula in the twelfth and thirteenth cen- 
turies, the eastern Spanish regions of Aragon and Catalonia, later to be 
called the corona de Aragon, also provide a valuable source of fact and image 
concerning the contemporary Muslim population. As "a refuge for non- 
conformists," the eastern Iberian realms became leaders of the Christian re- 
conquest along the littoral below Tarragona after the union of the two states 
under one ruler in 1137. 11 With the conquests of Lerida and Tortosa in 
1148—9, great swaths of rich Muslim land came under the control of the 
Barcelona dynasty, and this new expanded control was reflected in the laws 
that it issued. Ramon Berenguer IV (1131—62), the architect of the first 
phase of Aragonese expansion, capped his great victories with a code that 
came to be known as the Usatges of Barcelona. 11 Though the laws were at- 
tributed to an earlier ruler, Ramon Berenguer I (1035—76), they reflect 
twelfth-century views of Islam and its adherents in eastern Spain. In the 
code, the sovereign declared himself to be the protector of all his subjects, 


no matter of what class or religion. 13 For the Muslim population, this 
meant an expressed willingness of the king to stop the taunting that Mus- 
lims who had converted to Christianity suffered from their present and for- 
mer coreligionists. Despite this averred royal protection for Muslim and 
converso communities, the Usatges expressed another far stronger societal 
constant, the Christian fear of mudejar populations living in their midst, 
and of the ta 'ifa states that still controlled over half of the Peninsula at that 
time. The religious influences of Islam on eastern Spanish Christians had to 
be resisted at all costs. The seriousness of such a threat was expressed in a 
Usatges article that allowed a father to disinherit his son if he converted to 
Islam. With so many Muslim communities across a short stretch of no- 
man's-land, anxiety over the invasion or interference of the ta'ifa states is 
apparent in a Usatges law that posted large rewards for the return of Mus- 
lim captives who had escaped their Christian masters. Whether freemen or 
not, the status of many Muslims in eastern Spain was not unlike that of 
slaves. The importance of such a formidable set of enemies across the 
frontier is shown in the articles that posted large fines for Christians who 
sold food, weapons, or information to the ta'ifa states. 17 As a mirror of 
twelfth-century society in the Crown of Aragon — albeit, an idealized one — 
the Usatges urged protection of individual Muslim communities while fear- 
ing the awesome possibilities of international Islam. Such a dichotomy 
would live in the minds of kings and political theorists of Christian Iberia 
for the rest of the Middle Ages. 

Giving substance to the bare bones record of law, the chronicle form in 
eastern Spain provided a set of anti-Muslim motifs that made little effort to 
comply with a Thucydidean vision of historical truth. With many an Iber- 
ian chronicler, an "educated" or clerical direction can be noted that trans- 
formed those who practiced Islam into a satanic host fighting for a great 
metaphysical victory rather than for the occupation of mere territory. In 
more mundane terms, the chroniclers portrayed the Spanish Muslims as in- 
terlopers, and the Christians of the Peninsula as wronged descendants of the 
Visigothic kingdom who were simply reclaiming their rightful inheritance. 18 
Though such cosmic views of the small Christian states largely originated in 
Castile-Leon and Navarre, Aragon and Catalonia were not spared the grand 
eschato logical sweep of monastic authors. Such works as the Gesta Comitum 
Barchinonensium and the Cronica de San Juan de la Pena did not appear until 
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries respectively; yet they replicated the 
same stilted paradigms first aired in the clerical historiography of the west- 
ern realms well over a century earlier. 19 One Catalan work, the Llibre dels 
Feyts — more autobiography than chronicle — signaled a sea change in the re- 
gion's historical writing with a more "realistic" view of the Muslims of the 
Spanish Levant and Balearic Islands. 


Far from reclaiming some lost Visigothic past, the Book of Deeds, com- 
posed, or at least dictated in several stages of the later life of James I 
(1213—76), the great warrior-sovereign of the Crown of Aragon, is con- 
structed in far more personal and revealing terms. 20 While James I sets out 
to tell his own story, the exciting result is neither historically impartial nor 
untouched by contemporary literary influences. While not conceiving of 
history in the universal terms of the clerical chroniclers, the Conqueror 
views and interprets his own deeds through the warped lens of chivalry. 21 
Even with its declared prejudice for the great deed carried out for a great 
cause, the Llibre dels Feyts casts up images of both mudejar and Andalusian 
Muslim populations that resonate through the attitudes and philosophy of 
the later medieval Crown of Aragon. 

For James I, orphaned at an early age and spending much of his boyhood 
in close confinement at the court of his father's enemy, Simon de Montfort, 
in Carcassonne or with the Templars at Monzon, 22 war with Islam was an 
everlasting mission that the king used to overcome the humiliations of his 
early life while donning the aura of a chivalric hero. Thus before James was 
twenty, he burned to make "a good raid against the Moors." Though largely 
ineffectual before 1229 in delivering "a good stroke of war" against Spanish 
Islam, the drive for personal redemption through regnal expansion never left 
the sovereign. 23 When these boyhood dreams were fulfilled in almost con- 
stant periods of war between 1229 and 1266 against the ta'ifa states of Ma- 
jorca, Valencia, Jativa, and Murcia, he formed definite, but often 
conflicting, attitudes towards Muslims as unconquered enemies or royal sub- 
jects. Like his son Peter III the Great (1276—85), James could not help but 
stand in awe of Muslim armies and the glittering impression of gold, silver, 
and silk they made when forming up for battle. 25 His opinion of them as 
fighting men, however, was much less favorable, though not as unflattering 
as that portrayed in the contemporary chansons de geste. Though gener- 
ally viewing the Muslim as either ignorant of or unwilling to live up to the 
general demands of chivalry, the king never failed to credit the courage or 
chivalric behavior of an individual Islamic enemy. One such adversary in the 
siege of Majorca city (1229), Ben Abet, at great risk to himself aided the 
Christian forces at such a critical period of near starvation, that James and 
his army called him their "angel." 27 Even with such rare exceptions, James 
normally considered the infidel hosts he faced as cowardly and cruel. They 
did not fight according to the unwritten code of the gentleman- warrior, but 
displayed a disgusting savagery, as during the Majorcan siege when the Mus- 
lim defenders used Christian captives as human shields to prevent the use of 
trebuchets against the outside walls. 28 

Even before James I had concluded his great conquests, he entered into 
an official relationship with subjugated Muslim populations, which was 


delineated in the surrender constitutions of many castles and cities. Much 
like urban communities of Aragon and Catalonia, Muslim aljamas or com- 
munities acted to accept the king as their lord. 29 In return, the king 
promised "to keep and defend them as . . . [his] subjects and vassals." 30 As 
an inducement to stop fighting and accept the Christian invader as their 
sovereign, the aljamas were allowed to retain all their political and eco- 
nomic liberties. In most cases, they were to be judged by their own offi- 
cials in accordance with Islamic "custom" (sunna, guna), that the Crown 
considered to be "the privileges and customs that the Saracens were accus- 
tomed to have." 31 As a sign of good faith and to provide interim security, 
the king allowed Muslim garrisons to retain at least some of their fortresses 
for months or even years after the surrender. 32 Despite these efforts at 
maintaining some self-sufficiency, James, as the lord of Christian and 
Muslim populations, found himself as a mediator between the two. Such 
overlapping allegiances proved a quandary not only for the king but also 
for such Christian hotspurs as Guillem de Aguilo, who though freely ad- 
mitting that he had robbed and murdered many of the king's Muslim vas- 
sals, could not see that he had done any "disservice" to the Crown since, 
to him, Islam and its adherents were still the enemy. 33 This was not the last 
occasion on that James would be caught between his old and new vassals; 
in each case, his reputation as protector of the Muslims suffered. 3 Even 
into his old age, however, the sovereign continued to intercede for the de- 
feated Muslims. At times, as in the Murcian campaign of 1265—6, James's 
reputation as a "good lord" helped bring on the Muslim surrender of 
whole districts. Since it had been agreed that Murcia would pass to his 
son-in-law, Alfonso X, James had to use all means short of war to make the 
Castilian king honor the surrender treaties negotiated with the embattled 
Muslim strongholds. 35 Despite such intense domestic and foreign pres- 
sure, James remained a stalwart defender of the commitments he had made 
with Muslim communities, even though many of them had been forced at 
the point of a sword. 

The other side of the Conqueror's relationship with his Muslim vassals 
was one of frustration, fear, and finally rage. With the relatively large Mus- 
lim populations in the lands he conquered, "ethnic cleansing" such as 
Charlemagne's deportation of the Saxons, was impossible. Instead, James re- 
lied on feudal bonds, but soon found that his new Muslim vassals caused 
him as much trouble as did his old rebellious Christian ones. 3 Regardless of 
the pledged love between James and his Muslim vassals, the king's crusading 
mandate — conversion of the infidel or destruction of their land — was a feel- 
ing that did not easily evaporate among the vanquished or the victors. 37 Nor 
was there a lessening of the Christian fear that the large Muslim aljamas in 
Valencia, Jativa, or Murcia might conspire with their coreligionists in 


Granada or North Africa to rise in a general rebellion to overwhelm the 
Christian control of lands so recently won from Islam. 38 When this feared 
prophecy came true with the Al-Azraq revolt of 1244—5, James's anger knew 
no bounds. Though he promised much the same kind of vengeance as he did 
against his fractious Christian barons in 1265— 6, 39 he soon became con- 
vinced that, even when confronted with the terror of his anger, those Mus- 
lims not involved in treason still cared "very little or nothing about [his] 
troubles." As these troubles intensified in the last decades of his life, the 
king's attitude toward his Muslim vassals moved from a feeling of betrayal to 
a burning assurance that such faithless people had to be hounded from his 
lands. Because of their unforgivable "audacity" that held "royal love and sov- 
ereignty" in such low esteem, James long planned "to repay them well and 
in full force" by driving all of the Islamic populations out of his lands. 
James's rancor intensified in his last years; with yet another mudejar rebel- 
lion in 1275, the sovereign — from his deathbed — begged his son to con- 
tinue the war until all of the Muslims were expelled from Valencia. 
According to the aged campaigner, the followers of the Prophet in eastern 
Spain had become, and perhaps always were, enemies who strove "to injure 
and deceive [him] whenever they could." A gauntlet between Christian 
overlord and Muslim vassal had clearly been cast down here, but its ultimate 
effects would not be realized for some three centuries. 

In spite of James's dire behest to his son, the Muslim communities per- 
sisted for centuries to come and, in fact, outlived the Crown of Aragon it- 
self. As members of aljamas or individual sharecroppers (exarici), the 
Muslims of eastern Spain lived under a legal status that was defined with 
some uniformity but interpreted in different ways, many of them prejudicial 
to them. While the great codes of the region — the Usatges of Barcelona, 
Fueros of Aragon, and Furs of Valencia — dealt in general terms with the infi- 
del's position in Christian society, a more focused, mundane view of mude- 
jar life is apparent in the municipal lawcodes (fueros) and individual royal 
directives. The most defensible Muslim rights were those that came as the 
result of grants of autonomy to the aljama. Such statements of privilege and 
duty were often defined as part of the surrender agreement that the Christ- 
ian conqueror dictated. In such laws, both the servitude and the freedom 
of mudejar society is evident. 

Definition of Muslim status was clearly in the hands of the Christian over- 
class. A sizeable minority of the mudejares came into eastern Spain as slaves 
or fell into that unhappy state because of rebellion against Christian author- 
ity. As chattel, they could be sold at any time; as "strayed property," the run- 
away Muslim slave faced a hostile Christian land that was encouraged by the 
posting of rewards to return him to the wrath of his master. Their only sure 
routes of escape were death or manumission. It was the latter practice that 


slave owners among the upper ranks of eastern Spanish society regularly en- 
gaged in as their own deaths approached. Despite the importance of such 
ports as Majorca, Barcelona, and Valencia as slave entrepots for a European- 
wide market, most Muslims in the Crown of Aragon were born or died as 
freemen. Though repeatedly referred to as "the special treasure of the king" in 
general law codes, the Muslim based his status not on such vague formulas, 
but rather relied on the feudal pact or convenientia that laid out specific du- 
ties toward and rights claimed from the lord. The lord acted as protector and 
guarantor of his Muslim vassal before town or royal law; in return, the vassals 
promised to do everything "good and faithful men ought to do for their good 
and loyal lord;" namely, to provide service, advice, food, or money whenever 
needed. Though seldom called to military service, Muslim vassals were very 
often responsible for the wall repair of the cities they lived in or to garrison 
urban fortresses. 

Within the feudal world in which they lived, mudejar individuals and 
communities won for themselves a political niche of considerable autonomy. 
Each aljama chose its own officials, the most significant of that was the qadi 
{alcalde, Span.), the chief judge who also served as the principal Arabic cal- 
ligrapher, and the sahib al madina (zalmedina, Span.), who served as the al- 
jamds principal peace officer and the muhtasib {almutazaf, Span.). 50 All 
aljama officials carried out their offices according to Muslim law and with 
very little interference from royal agents. 51 Most legal and fiscal matters were 
settled within the aljama, unless no agreement could be reached, and then 
mudejar litigants could appeal to royal courts. Christian judges, however, 
were repeatedly warned not to offend by their verdicts the Islamic sunna or 
to impose penalties that required a Christian executioner. 52 As an important 
source of "captive royal financing," the economic status of the aljama was 
very closely defined. As specified in many of the surrender treaties, exemp- 
tion from all royal taxation was extended to the community for a year or 
more. When taxes were finally due, they were collected by both the Crown 
and the local lord. Immunities from tolls and excise taxes, often bought from 
the Crown, were enjoyed by individual Muslim merchants. Such privileges 
were seldom extended to full communities, which were used by the Crown 
as a source of regular and emergency revenue. Sovereigns from James I, how- 
ever, did allow the aljamas to negotiate discounted block payments to cover 
several years of full taxation. 53 While Muslim economic activity was largely 
unimpeded by royal interference, such oversight regularly became necessary 
when mudejar economic interests collided with those of the Jews. 5 Of all 
the statements of separate status under the canopy of royal protection and 
power, that which centered on the Muslim's freedom to practice his religion 
was the most complex and fraught with danger. The aljamas right to wor- 
ship in its unique way, teach the tenets of Muhammad, and maintain a sep- 


arate cemetery were privileges that were affirmed and reaffirmed by Christ- 
ian rulers from the twelfth century on. 55 Such religious privileges, however, 
did not allow the aljama to prevent its own members from converting to 
Christianity or to pressure them to come back to their old faith. Thus 
while the letter of Christian legal philosophy decreed that "Moors shall live 
among Christians ... by observing their own rites but not insulting ours," 
the very proximity of the Christian and Muslim neighborhoods made such 
segregation a difficult thing to attain as James I himself discovered in 1266 
at Murcia, when his sleep was disturbed by the call to prayer of the muezzin 
(mu'adhdim). 57 Tolerance of these exotic differences had its limits and these 
would be severely tested in the later Middle Ages by religious and chivalric 

By a cursory comparison of law and chronicle, it is easy to see that the way 
Muslims were supposed to live within the Christian orbit and the way they 
actually did were two very different things. Due to the interaction of Muslim 
and Christian in Iberian urban society, convivencia or "coexistence" — to use 
Americo Castro's term — was almost inevitable. Acculturation in literature, 
language, art, and music flowed in both directions across the walls put up by 
religion. 58 Despite these unavoidable, almost atmospheric influences, it was 
an inferior status of separation, not of accommodation, that Christian rulers 
attempted to impose on their Muslim subjects. "The abominable sect of 
Muhammad" was distinguished from its Christian neighbors by the cramped, 
often walled-off barrios in which its members lived, as well as by the general 
labels in the Christian vernacular, such as moro, sarrahin or mudejar applied 
to them in the Christian vernacular. 59 To these customary norms of differen- 
tiation, there were added statutory rules that attempted to reinforce the infe- 
rior place of mudejar society by enforcing on its members a different standard 
of public mores, as well as distinctive clothing and hairstyles "so the Saracens 
may be distinguished among the Christians." As a warning not to violate 
these age-old canons of difference, the mudejar was subjected to a "measured 
reign of terror" by nobles or towns for distinctly minor offenses. From a 
Christian point of view, the life of a Muslim — a life that could suffer insult, 
damage, or death without receiving the automatic protection of the law — was 
a fate worse than death. In many ways, then, convivencia was as much a "liv- 
ing against or in spite of" as it was a "living together." 

While the mudejar communities in the medieval Crown of Aragon were 
often better defined than safeguarded by royal and municipal law, their so- 
cial position proved even flimsier before the winds of fear and intolerance 
that swept across Europe in the later Middle Ages. Despite some attempts 
among Europe's intelligentsia to promote a greater understanding of Islam, 
these efforts were not rooted in a desire for international brotherhood but 
rather to render conversion more efficient. With the advancement of the 


Ottoman Empire, which stunned Western Europe with the conquest of 
Constantinople in 1453, the calls for a closer study of Islam were shunted 
aside in a political and intellectual drive for the renewal of holy war against 
a reconstituted Islamic "terror of the world." Even before the astounding 
victories of Suleiman the Magnificent, however, popes from Innocent III 
(1198—1216) addressed the vexing problem of Islamic minorities under 
Christian rule. Comparing the infidel with the heretic in regard to his stand- 
ing in Christian society, a number of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century 
popes urged that the majority population should be sheltered from all marks 
of this "infection," including the traditional call to prayer. Segregation was 
to be made a point of public consciousness with the enforcement of dress 
codes on both the mudejara.n& converso populations. In such a frenzied at- 
mosphere of official bigotry, the last centuries of Muslim life in eastern Spain 
were lived out. 

In spite of the external pressures that conspired to shift the statutory 
basis on that Christian-Muslim accommodation was founded in the 
Crown of Aragon, the habit of convivencia lingered on into the fifteenth 
century. Feudal ties still breached the frontier between Andalusia and 
Granada, and these allegiances could be far stronger than the bonds be- 
tween Christians. Long centuries of such interaction could lead such writ- 
ers as Ramon Llull to declare that "the infidels are flesh and blood, being 
like us in species and form." Unaffected by such daring assertions, all of 
the sovereigns of the later Middle Ages repeatedly declared royal protec- 
tion of their mudejares, not because of any softening towards Islam but be- 
cause of the economic importance of this Muslim "treasure" to the Crown, 
as well as royal concern for the catastrophic decline in aljama popula- 
tions. Written rules or philosophical theories, however, could not change 
attitudes; it was thus the growing hatred and fear of reprisal among the 
Christian overlords that sent many of the mudejares of Valencia and An- 
dalusia to the kingdom of Granada in the decades before its final invest- 
ment and conquest in 1492. For the Islamic populace that remained, life 
in the Crown of Aragon was constantly narrowed in the wake of Christian 
prejudices that, at best, portrayed Muslims as "foolish and unreasonable" 
in their faith and, at worst, as a horde of monsters that fed off cruelty and 
sexual perversion. Throughout the fifteenth century, Islam itself was 
under attack by waves of Dominican apologists who debated Muslim 
scholars while preaching the benefits of conversion to captive aljama au- 
diences. Even when the Muslim abandoned his old ways, he could never 
step out from the suspicion of Christian society that he was still secretly 
practicing his old religion. As the fifteenth century passed, mudejar com- 
munities thus found themselves subjected to a Christian hatred that had 
now grown into a political and eschatological structure, which focused on 


the conquest of Granada as the touchstone of unified Spain's national 
greatness, as well as the signal for the inexorable movement toward the end 
of the world. All Islamic interlopers, a population that had so influenced 
Spain's past seven centuries, would now be defeated and exiled in the wake 
of this earth-shattering development. 70 

As religious fanaticism turned to prophecy to justify attacks on the legal 
status of mudejar society, so it relied on literature to formulate both the pro- 
gram and the ideology of the "final solution" in regard to its infidel popula- 
tions as ultimately to be practiced by the Spanish monarchy. After a century 
and a half of intermittent civil war and foreign invasion, chroniclers and 
poets were ambivalent to praise any war, even that against Islam. 71 The early 
world of conflict with Islam as a theater of chivalry, in which both Chris- 
tians and Muslims had assigned parts to play, was slowly replaced by a more 
bitter brand of holy war. Throughout the fifteenth century, the papacy 
preached with increased stridency a crusade against Granada. 72 Courtier 
poets, such as Alonso de Palencia and Diego de Valera, railed against the no- 
bles of their land who let an infidel kingdom survive in their midst unas- 
sailed. In 1463, a converso poet rhapsodized: "How glorious would be the 
King; how famous his vassals; how great the Crown of Spain if the king were 
to march on Granada and burst into Africa." 73 With the marriage of Ferdi- 
nand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1479, war on Islam seemed not 
only a religious destiny but also a political one that would put their own 
troubled lands at peace. 

In Catalonia, this ambivalence between chivalric and holy war against Islam 
is apparent in the same book, the great work of knightly adventure and love, 
Tirant lo Blanc. Written by a scion of an old Valencia family, Joanot Martorell, 
after 1460, and later massively edited and published by the Barcelonan Marti 
Joan de Galba in 1490, the Tirant is both an account of glorious deeds and a 
sounding board for religious renewal and unrelenting war on Islam after the 
disaster of Constantinople in 1453. In its first manifestation, the hero, a wan- 
dering knight of Valencia like Martorell, was dedicated to a mission that was 
delineated by Ramon Llull in the thirteenth century: "by force of arms . . . [to] 
vanquish the wicked who daily labor to destroy the Holy Church." 7 The spear- 
point of Tirant's bellicose energies was directed against Islam, but this was not 
his only enemy. Living by the rules of chivalry, he could judge a man as much 
by his deeds as by his religious beliefs. Thus, Christians could be faithless; Mus- 
lims, courageous and chivalrous. Such complexity could only exist for Tirant 
because of his creator's familiarity with mudejar life in peace and war. While 
Martorell was touched by the new crusading spirit spreading across Christen- 
dom, his hero, like the great Hungarian military figure John Hunyadi on whom 
Tirant is based, is as much a defender of Christianity as he is an opponent of 
international Islam, which formed up under the banner of the Ottomans. In 


Tirant's chivalric equation, then, the Muslim was a necessary element that al- 
lowed the Christian warrior to show his meddle while protecting his faith. 7 
This "justification by deed" gave way to a constant crusade under the heavy 
hand of Tirant's editor. As a minor cleric from Old Catalonia, Galba was far less 
knowledgeable of mudejar and Granadine life and far more moved by an in- 
tractable spirit of crusade against Islam than was Martorell. Unlike the earlier 
Tirant, who goes into battle for individual honor and the glory of his material 
and spiritual lord, Galba's hero, though experienced in duel and battle, also 
knew something of "spiritual matters." 77 In fact, the new Tirant is transformed 
into a missionary who converts and baptizes the upper crust of Barbary society 
and, buoyed up by a fanatical Christian faith, challenged all the Muslims he 
met to test their beliefs in the lists. With the advent of such self-righteous mil- 
itancy, it is little wonder that the physiognomy of Tirant's Muslim adversary lost 
much of his individuality to be replaced with formulaic, stereotypical descrip- 
tions. Thus as a perfect knight/missioner, Tirant is occasionally outmaneuvered 
and outnumbered by Islamic enemies, but is never deserted by his God. With 
the defeat of his opponents, he forced them to rail against Allah and range 
themselves under the banner of Christ. War, rather than being solely a contest 
for glory, is now transformed into a winner-take-all struggle for the soul of the 
unbeliever. 78 The transmogrification of the old chivalric Tirant signals the 
metamorphosis of eastern Spain — indeed, of all Christian Spain — from a land 
fashioned by the pliable, though fragile, interaction of the "three races" to one 
that came to feel polluted by "the scourge" of the "nations of the cursed seed," 
which would have to be driven out before the "purity" that had existed during 
Visigothic times could be reclaimed once more. 79 

With the conquest of Granada in 1492, the mudejar in the Crown of 
Aragon was an anachronism left behind by a waxing Christian militarism 
that made Islam one of a number of enemies for such new milites Dei as the 
Inquisition, the Society of Jesus, and the Holy League, who fought and cel- 
ebrated holy war much as had the "enthusiasts" who brought on the First 
Crusade. 80 Perched on the very end of their Iberian existence, the Spanish 
Muslims, or moriscos as they came to be called, lived a shadow life for a cen- 
tury after the defeat of Granada, suffering one political or religious intrusion 
after another at the hands of their Christian masters. In 1609, the moriscos 
suffered imperial Spain's ultimate solution and, like the Jews, were driven 
from the Iberian world. 81 Like his Jewish fellows, the Spanish Muslim, long 
"enslaved to the stranger" was equally enslaved by the image that the 
"stranger" projected on him. 82 The story of the Muslims of medieval Spain 
seems a disturbingly familiar one for a modern world in which changes of 
majority attitudes can wrought tremendous vicissitudes on the lives of racial, 
linguistic, or religious minorities, which, though having little possibility of 
entering into the societal mainstream, are essential for that mainstream's 


view of itself. 83 The "we" and "they" paradigm of both medieval and mod- 
ern life, then, seems to be different sides of the selfsame coin. 


1. Europe Transformed: Documents on the End of the Cold War, ed. Lawrence 
Freedman (London, 1991); Why the Cold War Ended: A Range of Interpreta- 
tions, eds. Ralph Summy and Michael E. Sulla (Westport CT, 1995); From 
Cold War to Collapse: Theory and World Politics in the 1980s, eds. Mike 
Bowker and Robin Brown (Cambridge, 1993); The End of the ColdWar, eds. 
David Armstrong and Erik Goldstein (London, 1990). 

2. Ron Barkai, Cristianos y musulmanes en la Espana medieval. (El enemigo en el 
espejo) (Madrid, 1984), 279. 

3. Barkai, Cristianos y musulmanes, 22—24; Benjamin Z. Kedar, Crusade and Mis- 
sion: European Approaches to the Muslims (Princeton, 1984), 85; Carmen Batlle, 
"Los muslmanes en Espana," in Textos comentados de epoca medieval (siglo Val 
XII) (Barcelona, 1975), 287—90. For Byzantine views, see John Meyendorff, 
"Byzantine Views of Islam," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 18 (1964): 115—32. 

4. Roger Collins, The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710-797 (Oxford, 1989), 
152—53; Jose Antonio Maravall, "La idea de reconquista en Espana durante 
la Edad Media," Estudios sobre Historia de Espafia, ed. Manuel Fernandez 
Alvarez, El Legado de la Historia 4 (Madrid, 1965), 184. 

5. Thomas E Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages. Com- 
parative Perspectives on Social and Cultural Formation (Princeton, 1979), 

168-70; C. M. Sage, Paul Alb ar of Cordoba (Washington, 1943); Textos, 
294-95; Collins, 217-30. 

6. Anwar G. Chejne, Islam andthe West: The Moriscos. A Cultural and Social His- 
tory (Albany, 1983), 77-81; Kedar, 36-37; Barkai, 41, 46; Textos, 448-53. 

7. James Waltz, "Carolingian Attitudes Regarding Muslims," Studies in Me- 
dieval Culture 5 (1975): 38. 

8. T he Song of Roland, trans. Glyn Burges (London, 1990), chaps. 3, 8, 14, 
232, pp. 32—33, 35, 131; Norman Daniel, Heroes and Saracens: An Interpre- 
tation of the Chansons de Geste (Edinburgh, 1984), 107-08, 110, 113-14; 
Kedar, 134; Maravall, 192. The author of the poem allowed the Muslim 
leaders to at least "have the look of a true baron"; one of them, Blancandrin, 
was typified as "a wise and valiant knight." Normally, however, the Muslim 
was not to be trusted and his fate, like Charlemagne's victims at Cordova, 
was either death or conversion to Christianity. 

9. The Poem of the Cid, trans. Rita Hamilton (London, 1984), chaps. 36, 39, 
44, 85, 126, 141, pp. 61, 63, 67, 105, 161, 193; Ramon Menendez, The 
Cid and His Spain, trans. H. Sutherland (London, 1934); Ramon Menen- 
dez, El Cid Campeador (Buenas Aires, 1955); Richard Fletcher, The Quest 
for El Cid (New York, 1990); Ganzalo Martinez Diaz, Hombres para un 
pueblo: El Cid historico (Valladolid, 1983). A monolithic Muslim enemy 
is impossible to find in the poem that is an account of the honorable and 


dishonorable relationships of Rodrigo Vivar de Diaz with the princes and 
sovereigns of eastern Spain. There is no chivalric exemplar in this frontier 
land where the Cid might leave many hundred infidels dead on the bat- 
tlefield but also proved to be a fair and beloved governor to his Muslim 
vassals and subjects. 

10. Norman Daniel, The Arabs and Mediaeval Europe (London, 1975), 86; 
Norman Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (Edinburgh, 
I960), 62—3, 1 12, 118—9; James Muldoon, Popes, Lawyers and Infidels: The 
Church and the Non-Christian World, 1250-1550 (Philadelphia, 1979), 
15—20, 191—2; Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades. A Short History (New 
Haven CT, 1987), 2—3; Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, 4 vols., 
(London, 1951). 1: 90-1. 

11. Thomas N. Bisson, The Medieval Crown of Aragon (Oxford, 1989), 9; 
Charles J. Bishko, "The Spanish and Portuguese Reconquest," in A History 
of the Crusades, ed. Kenneth M. Setton et al., 6 vols. (Madison, 1962—75), 
3: 400-405, 409—11; Derek Lomax, The Reconquest of Spain (London, 
1968), 55-58, 68-78, 83, 93; David Wasserstein, The Rise and Fall of the 
Party Kings (Princeton, 1985), 288-99. 

12. Donald J. Kagay, trans., The Usatges of Barcelona: The Fundamental Law of 
Catalonia (Philadelphia, 1994), 11; Jose Maria Font Rius, "La comarca de 
Tortosa a raiz de la reconquista cristiana (1148)," Cuadernos de Historia de 
Espana 18 (1953): 165. 

13. Usatges de Barcelona. El Codl a mitjan segle XII, ed. Joan Bastardas 
(Barcelona, 1984), art. 60, p. 96; Usatges, trans. Kagay, 78. 

14. Usatges, art. 70, p. 100; Usatges, trans. Kagay, 81; Maravall, 203-044. 

15. Usatges, art. 119, p. 154; Usatges, trans. Kagay, 95. 

16. Usatges, art. 83, p. 130; Usatges, trans. Kagay, 95. 

17. Usatges, arts. 100-2, p. 154; Usatges, trans. Kagay, 90. 

18. Barkai, 234, 242-45, 294. 

19. The Chronicle of San Juan de la Pena: A Fourteenth-Century Official History 
of the Crown of Aragon, trans. Lynn N. Nelson (Philadelphia, 1991), chaps. 
4, 10—1, 26, pp. 6—9, 45; L. Barrau Dihigo and J Masso Torrent, eds., Gesta 
Comitum Barchinonensium. Textos Llati i Catala, Crbniques Catalanes, vol. 2 
(Barcelona, 1925), chaps. 2, 11-22, pp. 24-25, 32-34. 

20. Jaume Masso Torrents, De la crbnica del Rei en Jaume I il Conqueridor (Tar- 
ragona, 1911), 9—10; Manuel de Montliu, "La Canco de Gesta de Jaume I. 
Nova teoria sobre la Cronica de Conqueridor," Buttleti Arqueologic 9 (1922): 
215—16; Ferran Soldevila, "La Cronica de Jaume I i manuscrit de Poblet," 
Misce lania Populetana 1 (1966): 307; Jaume Riera i Sans, "La personalitat 
eclesiastica del redactor del Llibre dels Feyts, " X Congres d'historia de la Corona 
de Aragd. Jaume I y su epoca [X CHCA], 3 vols. (Zaragoza, 1980), Comuni- 
caciones, 3, 4, y 5, 575—81. 

2 1 . Martin de Riquer, El trovador Guilhem de Bergueddn y las luchas feudales de 
su tiempo (Castellon, 1953), 7—10;, Martin de Riquer, "El mundo cultural 
en la corona de Aragon," X CHCA, Ponencias, 293—312. 


22. Llibre dels Feyts [LF] in Els quatre grans crbniques, ed. Ferran Soldevila 
(Barcelona, 1971), chap. 11, p. 8; Ferran Soldevila, Els primers temps de 

Jaume I (Barcelona, 1968), 1—3, 75—6; Salvador Sanpere y Miquel, "La mi- 
noria de Jaime I," Congres d'bistbria de la Corona de Arago, dedicat al rey en 
Jaume I y la seva epoca, 2 vols. (Barcelona, 1909—13), 2: 604. 

23. LF, chaps. 25, 117, pp. 15, 59. [bona cavalcada; bona guerreria}. 

24. For treatment of James as a military commander, see Paul Douglas 
Humphries, "Of Arms and Men: Siege and Battle Tactics in the Catalan 
Grand Chronicles," Military Affairs 48-9 (1984-5): 173-78; Paul E. 
Chevedden, "The Artillery of James I the Conqueror," in Iberia and the West- 
ern Mediterranean: Essays in Honor of Robert I. Burns, S. J., eds. Paul E. 
Chevedden, Donald J. Kagay, Paul G. Padilla, 2 vols. (Leiden, 1996), 
47—94; Donald J. Kagay, "The Conqueror as Logistician: Army Mobiliza- 
tion, Royal Administration and the Realm in the Thirteenth-Century 
Crown of Aragon," in Iberia and the Western Mediterranean, eds. Chevedden, 
Kagay, Padilla, 95-116. 

25. Bernat Desclot, The Chronicle of King Pedro III of Aragon, trans. F. L. 
Critchlow, 2 vols. (Princeton, 1928), chap. 17, p. 58. 

26. Barkai, 155; Daniel, Heroes, 104-107. 

27. LF, chap. 71, pp. 41-42. 

28. LF, chap. 71, pp. 41-42. 

29. Donald J. Kagay, "Royal Power in an Urban Setting: James I and the Towns 
of the Crown of Aragon," Mediaevistik 8 (1995): 127-36. 

30. LF, chaps. 183, 313, 418, pp. 82, 122, 152. 

31. Robert I. Burns, S.J., Islam under the Crusaders. Colonial Survival in the 
Thirteenth-Century Kingdom of Valencia (Princeton NJ, 1973), 227—28; 
Glick, 171. 

32. Burns, Islam under the Crusaders, chaps. 56, 121, 337, pp. 32—33, 61, 128; 
Barkai, 239—40; Robert I. Burns, S.J., Muslims, Christians and Jews in the 
Crusader Kingdom of Valencia. Societies in Symbiosis (Cambridge, 1984), 
54-66; Burns, Islam, 117-38. 

33. LF, chap. 306, p. 120: [E ell dix que havia feit mal als sarrains e no es cuidava 
que en ago ens faes desservici]. 

34. LF, chaps. 91, 277, 432, pp. 50, 112, 156. 

35. LF, chaps. 283, 437, pp. 114, 157; Barkai, 240-1; Juan Torres Fontes, La re- 
conquista de Murcia en 1266 p or J aim I de Aragon (Murcia, 1967), 137—45. 

36. Donald J. Kagay, "Structures of Baronial Dissent and Revolt under James I 
(1213-76)," Mediaevistik 1 (1988): 66-67. 

37. LF, chap. 56, pp. 32-33. 

38. LF, chap. 384, pp. 142—43. For relations of Spanish Christian and Muslim 
states in the late Middle Ages, see Joseph F. O'Callaghan, The Learned King: 
The Reign of Alfonso X of Castile (Philadelphia, 1993), 234-35, 244, 247, 
249; Miguel Angel Ladero Quesada, Granada: Historia de un pais isldmico, 
1232—1371 (Madrid, 1969); Manuel Sanchez Martinez, "Las relaciones de 
la Corona de Aragon con los Pai'ses musulmanes en la epoca de Pedro el 


Ceremonioso," Pere el Cerimonios i la seva if oca, eds. Maria Teresa Ferrer i 
Mallol and Salvador Claramunt (Barcelona, 1989), 75-97. 

39. Kagay, "Structures," 64. In a royal order that demanded support against the 
baronial rebels, James warned his Aragonese and Catalan towns that if they did 
not help him, they would suffer such "harm and damage that though it would 
displease us after the fact, we believe it would displease you even more." 

40. LF, chap. 362, p. 135: [que ver deits que poca cura n'han\. For Al Azrak re- 
volt, see Burns, Muslims, 239—84 and Burns with Paul E. Chevedden, "Al- 
Azraq's Treaty with Jaume I and Prince Alfonso: Arabic Text and Valencian 
Context," Der Islam 66 (1989): 2-3. 

41. LF, chaps. 361, 364, 367— 68, pp. 135—37: [ardiment; la nostra amor i la nos- 
tra senyoria; que els ho carvendrem regeu efort]. 

42. LF, chap. 564, p. 189: [fer a nds greuge i a nds decebre si poguessen]. James I 
died at Valencia on July 24, 1276. 

43. Felipe Fernandez y Gonzalez, Estado social y politico de los mudejares de Costilla 
(1866; Madrid, 1985), doc. 21, pp. 286-87; Esteban Sarasa Sanchez, So- 
ciedady conflictos sociales en Aragon: siglos XLII-XV. (Estructuras depodery con- 
flictos de clase) (Madrid, 1981), 211-12; P. E. Russell, Spain: A Companion to 
Spanish Studies (London, 1973), 85-86; Burns, Islam, 102-04. 

44. Fernandez y Gonzalez, doc. 18, p. 317; Sarasa Sanchez, 210—11. 

45. Francisco A. Roca Traver, "Un sigle de vida mudejar en la Valencia medieval 
(1238-1338)," Estudios de Edad Media de Aragon 5 (1952): doc. 4, p. 193; 
Joaquin Miret y Sans, Itinerari de Jaume I "el Conqueridor" (Barcelona, 
1918), 271; Ambrosio Huici y Miranda and Maria Desamperados Cabanes 
Pecourt, eds., Documentos de Jaime I [DJ], 4 vols. (Zaragoza, 1976—8), 3: 
docs. 792, 797, pp. 267, 270-71; Burns, Islam, 109-12. 

46. Vincenta Cortes Alonso, La esclavidad en Valencia durante el reinado de los 
Reyes Catolicos (Valencia, 1964); Vincenta Cortes Alonso, "Los pasajes de es- 
clavos de Valencia en tiempo de Alfonso V," Anuario de Estudios Medievales 
10 (1980): 791-803; Charles-Emmanuel Dufourcq, "Aspects interna- 
tionaux de Majorque durant les dernier siecles du Moyen Age," Mayurqa, 
Miscelaneas de estudios humanisticos 11 (1974): 5—52; Paul G. Padilla, "The 
Transport of Muslim Slaves in Fifteenth-Century Valencia," in Lberia andthe 
Medieval Mediterranean, eds. Chevedden, Kagay, Padilla, 379—94. 

47- John Boswell, The Royal Treasure: Muslim Communities Under the Crown of 
Aragon in the Fourteenth Century (New Haven CT, 1977), 30. 

48. Boswell, The Royal Treasure, 36-37; DJ, doc. 85, p. 99; Miret y Sans, 56; 
James Muldoon, ed., The Expansion of Europe: The First Phase (Philadelphia, 
1977), doc. 16, pp. 84—86; Angel Canellas Lopez, ed., Coleccion diplomatica 
del concejo de Zaragoza [CDCZ], 2 vols. (Zaragoza, 1972), 2: doc. 130, pp. 
119—20; Sarasa Sanchez, 213; Robert I. Burns, S.J. "The Muslim in the 
Christian Feudal Oder: The Kingdom of Valencia, 1240—1280," Studies in 
Cultured (1975): 111, 113, 116-19. 

49. CDCZ 1: doc. 66, pp. 168-69; 2: doc. 41, pp. 75-76; Boswell, 167, 180; 
Burns, Islam, 273-90. 


50. CDCZ, 2: doc. 59, p. 84; Fernandez y Gonzalez, doc. 24, p. 324; L. P. Har- 
vey, Islamic Spain 1250-1500 (Chicago, 1992), 127-30; Burns, Islam, 
232—39; Luis Garcia de Valdeavellano y Arcimus, Curso de historia de los in- 
stitution espanoles de los origenes al final de la Edad Media (Madrid, 1968), 
666-67, 670-71. 

51. Fernandez y Gonzalez, docs. 7, 24, 41, pp. 315—16, 327, 353; Roca Traver, 
doc. 7, p. 194; Boswell, 108, 125, 131. 

52. DJ, 3: doc. 758, p. 240; CDCZ, 2: docs. 210, 240, 242, pp. 160, 177-78; 
Miret y Sans, 248. 

53. Miret y Sans, 254; Roca Traver, doc. 8, 0. 194, Fernandez y Gonzalez, docs. 
24, 45, pp. 326-7, 358-9; CDCZ, 1: docs. 34, 41, 51, pp. 123, 132, 143^4; 
Burns, Islam, 72—73, 96. 

54. Roca Traver, docs. 1, 11, pp. 190, 196; CDCZ, 1: doc. 142, p. 238; 2: docs. 
333, 342, 387, pp. 235-36, 240, 266. 

55. Fernandez y Gonzalez, doc. 24, p. 32; DJ, 2: doc. 350, pp. 131—32; Boswell, 
286; Burns, Islam, 185-206. 

56. Fernandez y Gonzalez, doc. 24, p. 325; CHCZ, 1: doc. 66, p. 168. 

57. IF, chap. 445, p. 159; Norman Housely, The later Crusades from lyon to Al- 
cazar 1274-1580 (Oxford, 1992), 273; Joseph F. O' Callaghan, A History of 
Medieval Spain (Ithaca NY, 1975), 367. 

58. Americo Castro, The Spaniards: An Introduction to their History, trans. 
Williard F. King and Selma Margaretten (Berkeley, 1971), 179-81; Sarasa y 
Sanchez, 210, Housely, 273-74; Glick, 166, 295-96; Burns, Muslims, 
179—81; Ann Livermore, A Short History of Spanish Music (New York, 1972), 
34-47; Richard Fletcher, Moorish Spain (Berkeley, 1992), 134-56. 

59. Boswell, 3; Glick, 166; Roca Traver, 194-95; Burns, Islam, 64. 

60. Boswell, 344; Roca Traver, doc. 12, p. 19; Sarasa Sanchez, 214; Fernandez y 
Gonzalez, docs. 24, 56, pp. 325—27, 369. 

61. Boswell, 356-57. 

62. Kedar, 91. 

63. Johannes Vincke, ed., Documenta Selecta Mutuas Civitatis Arago-Cathalaunicae 
et Ecclesiae Relationes Illustrantia [DS], Biblioteca historica de la Biblioteca 
Balmes, vol. 2, ser. 2 (Barcelona, 1936), doc. 217, pp. 146^7- The complex- 
ity of this relationship is reflected in a royal communique of 1 3 1 4, in that James 
II reprimanded the vicar of Jativa for his interference in an economic dispute 
between Christians and Muslims of the town. By such an action, the cleric vi- 
olated the jurisdiction of the bailiff, the royal official of record in the town, as 
well as the traditional right of the Muslims to be judged by their sunna. 

64. R. W. Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages (Cambridge Mass., 
1962), 91-94. 

65. Southern, Western Views of Islam, 95—96; Bernard Lewis, The Muslim Dis- 
covery of Europe (New York, 1983), 23—24; Andrew Wheatcroft, The Ot- 
tomans (London, 1993), 23-24. 

66. Roca Traver, doc. 26, pp. 203—04; Kedar, docs, e, f, pp. 214-15; Muldoon, 
Popes, 51-52; Housely, 272-73; Boswell, 331-32. 


67. Jose Enrique Lopez de Coca Castaner, "Institution on the Castilian- 
Granadan Frontier, 1369—1482," Medieval Frontier Societies, eds. Robert 
Bartlett and Angus MacKay (Oxford, 1989), 148^9; Sarasa Sanchez, 215; 
Castro, p. 503, n. 7 ■ 

68. Chejne, 76; Dwayne E. Carpenter, "Social Perception and Literary Por- 
trayal: Jews and Muslims in Medieval Spanish Literature," Convivencia: Jews, 
Muslims and Christians in Medieval Spain (New York, 1992), 73—76. 

69. DS, doc. 448, pp. 325-26; Sarasa Sanchez, 214-17; Burns, Muslims, 8-34. 
D5", doc. 448, pp. 325-26; Sarasa Sanchez, 214-17; Burns, Muslims, 8-34. 

70. Muldoon, Popes, 20, 27, 141; Castro, 495-96; Vincente Cantarino, Entre 
monjesy musulmanes: El conflicto que fue Espana (Madrid, 1978), 96—99; Jose 
Antonio Maravall, Utopia and Counterutopia in the "Quijote" (Detroit, 
1991), 64; Christopher Columbus, Libro de las profecias, trans. Delno C. 
West and August Kling (Gainsville, FL, 1991), 33-35; Abbas Hamdani, 
"Columbus and the Recovery of Jerusalem," Journal of the American Orien- 
tal Society 99:1 (1979): 41^2; Angus MacKay, "Religion, Culture and Ide- 
ology on the Late Medieval Castilian-Granadan Frontier," in Medieval 
Frontier Societies, 242. 

71 . Jose Maria Lacarra, "Ideales de la vida en la Espana de siglo XV: El cabellero 
y el moro," Aragon en la Edad Media 5 (1983): 310, 312—13. 

72. Housely, 292-94. 

73. Roger Boase, The Troubadour Revival: A Study of Social Change and Tradition 
in Late Medieval Spain (London, 1978), 112; Lacarra, 309; Maravall, 
Utopia, 64-65, 80. 

74. Lacarra, 311, 317; Housely, 319-20. 

75. Ramon Llull, "The Book on the Order of Chivalry," in The History of Feu- 
dalism, ed. David Herlihy (New York, 1970). doc. 51, p. 313. 

76. Maria Jesus Rubiera Mata, Tirant contra el Islam (Alicante, 1993), 44—45, 
67; Maria Jesus Rubiera Mata, "El mon cavalleresc arab i el mon cavalleresc 
del Tirant," Afers 10 (1990): 267-300. 

77. Rubiera i Mata, Tirant, 45, 58, 60, 65-68; Joanot Martorell and Marti Joan 
de Galba, Tirant lo Blanc, trans. David Rosenthal (New York, 1984), chap. 
327, 483. 

78. Tirant, trans. Rosenthal, chaps. 308, 319, 326, 337-38, 347, pp. 462, 477, 
482-83, 494, 503; Rubiera i Mata, Tirant, 67, 91. 

79. Tirant, trans. Rosenthal, chap. 330, p. 486. 

80. Boase, 10; Iain Fenlon, "Lepanto and the Arts of Celebration," History Today 
45 (Sept., 1995): 24-30. 

81. Chejne, 22—3; P. Chaunu, "Minorites et conjoncture. L'expulsion des 
Morisques en 1609," Revue Historique ll'i (1961): 81-98; Maria Luisa 
Ledesma, Los mudejares en Aragon (Zaragoza, 1979), 9. 

82. David Goldstein, trans., The Jewish Poets of Spain, 900—1250 (Baltimore 
MD, 1965), 123. 

83. Daniel Katz, "The Functional Approach to the Study of Attitudes," Public 
Opinion Quarterly 24 (I960): 171, 191-92. 

C hapte r Six 

Arabs and Latins 
in the Middle Ages 
Enemies, Partners, 
and S c holars 

Alauddin S amarrai 

The Mediterranean world and western Asia experienced repeated cul- 
tural syntheses throughout much of their history. There was the syn- 
thesis of the Amarna Age. 1 There was also the Hellenistic Age, 
which produced a civilization born out of the interaction between Hellenic 
and Near Eastern elements. The civilization of the Middle Ages, at least until 
around A.D. 1300, was born out of a synthesis. 

We tend to speak reflexively of Western Civilization and Islamic Civi- 
lization as two distinct, and often mutually hostile, entities. "Influences" are, 
of course, recognized. But the relationship between "Islam" and "Christen- 
dom" was more fundamental. 

As a religion, Islam may be viewed as a form of Christian heresy. It was, 
indeed, viewed as such by some medieval writers. The Greek John of Dam- 
ascus (d. ca. 752) considered Islam as a Christian heresy. An iconodule, 
John, whose Arabic family name was al-Mansur, wrote treatises defending 
image worship. His De Haeresibus clearly regards Islam as a form of Christ- 
ian heresy, 3 maintaining that Muhammad received his knowledge about the 
Old and New Testament "in all likelihood through association with an Arian 


monk." It has, in fact, been maintained by some scholars that the Icono- 
clastic edict of 726, issued by the first iconoclastic Byzantine Emperor Leo 
III (717—741) was promulgated under the influence of an edict issued (in 
721) by the Umayyad Caliph Yazid II (720—724) ordering the removal of all 
icons from Christian churches in his realm. But even before 726, Leo III 
had addressed a letter to the Umayyad Caliph Umar II (717—720), the im- 
mediate predecessor of Yazid II, in which he minimizes the role of images, 
"and one can clearly see the importance of this apologetical attitude towards 
Islam in the early development of iconoclasm." 5 

Similar views of Islam were held by Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny 
(1122—1156), who describes Islam to St. Bernard of Clairvaux as "that 
foremost error of errors, concerning those dregs of all heresies . . ." 7 Muham- 
mad, according to Peter the Venerable, may be regarded as a "mean" between 
Arius and the Antichrist, appropriately provided for this purpose by Satan. 8 
The Jews, to prevent Muhammad from becoming a true Christian, provided 
him with fables rather than the truth of scriptures. 9 

Islam accepts many of the dogmas of Christianity, including the Virgin 
Birth and the Ascension. Only Mary and Jesus, according to a hadith, were 
free from the unclean touch of Satan who touches children at birth. 10 It de- 
nies, of course, the divine nature of Christ, but Arianism, too, denied His 
divine nature. Islam, moreover, denies the Crucifixion and the very concept 
that Christ was the Son of God. But the Felician (or Adoptionist) heresy, 
suppressed by Charlemagne (in 792 and 794), n held views on this matter 
that were perhaps a combination of Arianism and Islamism. 

But Islam became a major political and military power very quickly — 
actually even during the life of Muhammad. The Islamic state came into 
conflict with the Byzantine Empire almost immediately. Byzantium came, 
therefore, to represent Christianity, a fact that accounts for the anti- 
Christian expression in Islam and the reduced interest among Muslims in 
both Jesus and Mary. 

One hundred years after the death of Muhammad, Charles Martel 
stopped the Muslim advance in central Gaul at the Battle of Tours in 732. 
Shortly afterwards, the political unity of Islam came to an end with the Ab- 
basid revolution in 750, which coincided, almost exactly, with the corona- 
tion of Pepin the Short. The Abbasids never controlled the entire Muslim 
world. Consequently, a general period of military equilibrium prevailed be- 
tween Islam and Christian Europe. With only a few exceptions (e.g., the 
very slow conquest of Sicily by the Aghlabids, and the establishment of the 
Muslim base at Fraxinetum by, essentially, Muslim pirates), Islamic expan- 
sion came to an end before 750. The Christian European counterattack, cul- 
minating in the crusades, must be dated from the destruction of Provencal 
Islam that was prompted by the capture of St. Majolus of Cluny in 972. 


Then came the Christian campaigns of the eleventh century, which gradu- 
ally eliminated the Islamic presence in the western Mediterranean before the 
invasion of the Levant by the crusaders. The Arab historian Ibn al-Athir 
(1160—1234) regards the crusades precisely in this manner. 12 These military 
conflicts sometimes obscure the cultural unity of the Mediterranean world 
across religious frontiers. 13 I am not speaking simply of occasional borrow- 
ings. I am, rather, speaking of borrowings that fit into the borrower's culture 
without a great deal of tension or adjustment. I do not think that Confucius 
would have been very useful to Averroes, Maimonides, or St. Thomas 
Aquinas, and I am not sure that Aristotle would have been meaningful to 
the emperors of China. But Aristotle preoccupied Averroes, Maimonides, 
and St. Thomas Aquinas. 

On May 30, 1254, a debate took place at Karkorum. Richard Southern 
calls it "the first world debate in modern history between representatives of 
East and West." That was in the presence of the Mongolian Khan 
Mangu. 15 William of Rubruk, dispatched to Mongolia by Louis IX, repre- 
sented Latin Christianity. The other participants in the debate were 
Nestorian Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims. William of Rubruk con- 
vinced the Nestorians (who wanted to attack the Muslims first) to make an 
alliance with the Muslims against the Buddhists, because he understood the 
common points of agreement between the Christians and Muslims. The 
first encounter, therefore, was between the Latins, Nestorians, and Muslims 
against the Buddhists. 17 

Nevertheless, it is of course true that medieval polemicists sometimes ex- 
hibited strange ignorance of Islam by European Christians and of Chris- 
tianity by Muslims, although the Muslims were less egregious in that than 
the Europeans. But in both cases one must remember that such polemics 
were usually akin to wartime propaganda. It is difficult to imagine that ed- 
ucated Christians really believed that Muhammad was devoured by dogs or 
pigs, leaving nothing of him but his heels. 18 But Muslim writers also en- 
gaged in anti-Christian polemics. Appellations such as kuffar or kafirun (in- 
fidels) and mushrikun (polytheists) were sometimes applied by Muslims to 
European or Byzantine Christians. Celebrating the sack of the Byzantine 
city of Amorium in 838 by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mu'tasim (reigned 
833-42), the poet Abu-Tammam (805-845) describes the Caliph's victory 
in these terms: "You have left the fortunes of the sons of Islam in the ascen- 
dant, and the polytheists and the abode of polytheism in decline." 19 But 
Abu-Tammam was himself the son of a Christian from Damascus! Yet, noth- 
ing in Islamic anti-Christian polemics compares to the Song of Rolands ig- 
norant attribution to Islam of the three gods: Mahomet, Apollyon, and 
Tervagant. 20 Nor should one expect that from the Muslims whose empire 
was for a long time inhabited mostly by Christians. 


The ideas of the propagandists do not reflect the real degree of under- 
standing between Christians and Muslims. In the 1180s the Spanish 
Muslim Ibn Jubayr visited the crusading states in Syria and marveled at 
the amity between Franks and Muslims, as well as the trade between the 
two sides even during the fierce anti-crusading wars of Salah al-Din. He 
took a Genoese ship from Syria, but was wrecked off the Sicilian shore. 
The Norman king was William II, whose intervention rescued the pas- 
sengers from the consequences of the jus naufragii. Ibn Jubayr lingered in 
Sicily — reporting on his observations in Palermo and other cities, with 
special interest in the welfare of Muslims under Norman rule. The Nor- 
man court seemed to Ibn Jubayr more Islamic than Catholic European. 
Christian women were attired in the manner of Muslim women. The 
Norman government was tolerant of Muslims, but conversion to Chris- 
tianity could bring one economic and other advantages. Education in Is- 
lamic law could be useful upon conversion to Christianity. The career of 
a certain Ibn Zur'ah appalled Ibn Jubayr. A Muslim faqih in Palermo, Ibn 
Zur'ah was converted to Christianity. His background in jurisprudence 
helped him to become a canon lawyer. 21 

The unity of the Mediterranean is illustrated by the career of a Pisan 
diplomat. In 1 157, an Egyptian ship sold Pisan citizens in Tunis. The Pisan 
government issued a protest to Tunis. In a memorandum dated July 10, 
1157, the Tunisian government apologized to Pisa, claiming that they had 
not known that the captives were Pisan citizens. The Pisan ambassador, who 
carried the letter of protest to Tunis, was the condottiere Abu Tamim May- 
mun Ibn Guglielmo. 22 

From about the twelfth century, the relations between the Islamic and 
Christian states were regulated by treaties. Those treaties and the diplomatic 
correspondence they generated, as well as the letters between Christian and 
Muslim merchants, illustrate a degree of unity and sophistication in under- 
standing each other's sensibilities that one cannot find in relying on the 
polemics of scholars who were restricted by traditional notions and termi- 
nology. In June 1181, the Muslim ruler of the Balearic Islands, Abu Ibrahim 
Ishaq Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ali, ratified a treaty with the Genoese ambas- 
sador Rodoano De Mauro. This was something like a non- aggression pact, 
with commercial interests in mind. The text starts with a benediction: "In 
the name of God the Beneficent, the Merciful. May God Bless all the 
Prophets and Have Peace upon Them." There is no mention of Muhammad 
or Jesus. The Muslim may think of Muhammad and Jesus among "all the 
prophets," and the Christian may subtract Jesus and Muhammad from 
them. This formula, which must have been chosen carefully, is common in 
these treaties between Christian and Muslim polities. 23 


It is now generally accepted that the background of the poetry of the 
Provencal troubadours was the Hispano-Arabic poetry. The late Dr. A. R. 
Nykl was convinced that the analogies between the early troubadours' forms 
of poetry and Arabic poetry "can only be explained by imitation or adapta- 
tion, not by independent invention." 

The ideas of fame so prevalent in medieval Arabic literature and in Ara- 
bic culture itself began to appear in strikingly similar forms in Renaissance 
Italy and elsewhere in Europe. This is a theme I elaborated elsewhere. 25 

Asin y Palacios traces Dante's Divine Comedy to the theme of Muham- 
mad's Mi 'raj (miraculous ascension into Heaven) mentioned in the Qur'an 
and elaborated by Muslim mystics, such as Ibn Arabi. It is significant that 
Dante places Avicenna, Averroes, and Salah al-Din in Limbo, 2 unlike 
Muhammad and Ali who inhabit the ninth chasm among the schismatics. 27 
This, I submit, is not very different from similar attitudes in our own cen- 
tury. Contrast, for example, the Western attitudes toward Adolf Hitler on 
the one hand, and Marshal Erwin Rommel and the German physicist 
Werner Heisenberg on the other; or Joseph Stalin vs. Marshal Georgi 
Zhukov and the Soviet physicist Peter Kapitza. 

The influence on Western education of the Graeco-Arabic material that 
became available in Latin in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries can hardly 
be exaggerated. 28 In this respect, Arabs and Latins shared as their own com- 
mon heritage not only the genuine heritage of Hellenism, but also one of the 
most successful of medieval forgeries — the Sirr al-Asrar, known in the Latin 
West as the Secretum Secretorum. This is a pseudo-Aristotelian treatise on the 
conduct of government that appeared first in Arabic, probably in Baghdad in 
the ninth century A.D. It was supposed to have been written for Alexander by 
his teacher Aristotle, and it was to have been translated from Greek into Syr- 
iac and from Syriac into Arabic by Yohanna (Yahya) Ibn al-Batriq, one of the 
great Christian translators associated with the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma'mun 
(reigned 813—833). There is no Greek original, which means that the book 
was forged in Arabic, but I tend not to associate Yohanna Ibn al-Batriq him- 
self with the forgery. 29 

The first Latin translation of the Secretum Secretorum dates from the 
twelfth century, followed by other translations, not only in Latin but also 
into other languages, including Hebrew and a fifteenth century translation 
into Middle English. 

Christian scholars, including St. Thomas Aquinas and Roger Bacon, and 
Muslim scholars such as Ibn Khaldun, quote and refer to the Secretum Se- 
cretorum. (Although I must say that Ibn Khaldun was quite suspicious of its 
Aristotelian authorship.) The influence of the Secretum Secretorum on 
Machiavelli's Prince is at least indirect. 30 


But the Arabs and their Latin contemporaries also shared common views 
of the world, especially outside the Mediterranean heartland. Those geo- 
graphical and ethnographic notions derive from common classical origins. 
Sometimes the vocabulary itself is common. 

It is true that Arabic geographical knowledge surpassed that of the classi- 
cal writers and also that of the medieval Europeans. Their knowledge of 
Eastern Europe has contributed to the reconstruction of medieval Russian 
history and to the Normanist — anti-Normanist debate on the origin of the 
Rus. 31 Nevertheless, Arab physical geography is essentially Greek, particu- 
larly Ptolemaic. Arabic geographical terminology is Greek: the Ocean is 
Okeanos; the Black Sea is Pontus; the Sea of Azov is Maeotis — and this is the 
vocabulary of the Latin writers as well. Geographical and ethnographic 
mythology also includes notions, derived from classical antiquity, by both 
the Latin and the Arabic writers of the Middle Ages. 

Gog and Magog occupied important places in medieval mythological ge- 
ography and ethnography. Their origin is biblical and also Qur'anic. In the 
Near Eastern sources, Gog and Magog were associated with the mythical ad- 
ventures of Alexander, and they were identified frequently with the Phanesii 
of the Latin sources, who cover themselves with their huge ears. 32 Some 
Latin writers identified Gog and Magog with the Huns or, partly on pho- 
netic grounds, with the Goths. 33 

Similarly, the concept of the martial Amazons was prominent in mytho- 
logical ethnography in both the Latin and the Arabic sources of the Middle 
Ages. 3 Other monstrous nations, such as the Arimaspi, i.e., the one-eyed 
griffin fighters mentioned by Herodotus 35 and Pliny, 3 appear in the Arabic 
sources. Al-Qazwini (thirteenth century) mentions the short (one cubit in 
height) one-eyed griffin fighters who, unlike the classical Arimaspians, do 
not inhabit northern Europe, but some islands of Zanj. 37 

Associated with mythological and monstrous nations are mythological 
geographical ideas — shared by the Latin and Arabic writers. The concept of 
Thule as the end of civilization in the North is held by Arab and Latin geo- 
graphers. The Arab cosmographer al-Dimashqi (d.1327) speaks of the "Is- 
land of Rifa'ah" in the extreme Northeast, along with Thule. This "Rifa'ah" 
corresponds to the mythical Riphaean Mountains mentioned by the 
eleventh-century German ecclesiastical official Adam of Bremen. 38 Roger 
Bacon in the thirteenth century identifies the Riphaean Mountains as the 
source of the Tanais (Don) River in the extreme North. 39 

In conclusion, the civilizations of medieval Islam and Latin Christianity 
share common roots in religion and culture. That they were often unaware 
of what they had in common is true, but that is a different subject altogether. 
Neither the culture of Latin Europe, nor that of medieval Islam would have 
been possible without classical antiquity and the religion of Israel. 



1 . In the Amarna age, see Cyrus H. Gordon, The Common Background of Greek 
and Hebreiv Civilizations (NewYork, 1965). 

2. See the important book by Maria Rosa Menocal, The Arabic Role in Medieval 
Literary History: A Forgotten Heritage (Philadelphia, 1987). 

3. R. W. Southern, Western Vieivs of Islam in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 
Mass., 1962), 38. See also Norman Daniel, Islam and the West (Edinburgh, 
1962), 184—88. Daniel J. Sahs, John of Damascus on Islam (Leyden, 1972); 
John Meyendorff, "Byzantine Views of Islam," in Dumbarton Oaks Papers 18 
(1964): 113—32, esp. 116, 19; see an English trans, of the section on Islam 
in the De Haeresibus (ch. 101) by John W. Voorhis, "John of Damascus on 
the Moslem Heresy," The Moslem World24:4 (October 1934), pp. 391-398. 
Frank Hugh Foster, "Is Islam a Christian Heresy?" The Moslem World 22:2 
(April 1932): 126—33, lists ten Islamic doctrines that "are enough to justify 
our title, that Mohammedanism is an heretical Christianity. " (Emphasis by 
Foster). David S. Margoliouth, "Is Islam a Christian Heresy?" The Moslem 
World 23:1 (J an - 1933): 6—15 rejects Foster's conclusion and maintains, in- 
stead, that Islam might be regarded as a Jewish heresy. 

4. Sahs, John of Damascus on Islam, 9 ff, 85. 

5. Meyendorff, "Byzantine Views," 127- Some scholars, however, interpret 
Leo Ill's letter to Umar II as showing "positive attitude toward the venera- 
tion of the icons," rather than precursor of iconoclasm. (Sahs, John of Dam- 
ascus, 44, n. 3). 

6. Southern, Western Views of Islam, p. 38; Daniel, Islam and the West, 184—88. 

7. James Kritzeck, Peter the Venerable and Islam (Princeton, 1964), 141. 

8. Kritzeck, Peter the Veiierable, 145. 

9 . Kritzeck, Peter the Venerable, 131. 

10. The Hadith is quoted from al-Bukhari in Jacques Jomier, O.P., The Bible 
and the Koran (Chicago, 1959), 81: "Abu Huraira says: I heard the messen- 
ger of God say: No descendant of Adam is born but that Satan touches him 
at his birth, except Mary and her son Jesus." 

11. C. W. Previte-Orton, The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History, 2 vols. (Cam- 
bridge, 1962), vol. 1:313. 

12. Recueil des Historiens des Croisades: Historiens Orientaux, I (Paris, 1872; 
repub. by Gregg Press Ltd., 1967), 189-190. 

13. On the unity of the Mediterranean, see S. D. Goitein, "The Unity of the 
Mediterranean World in the 'Middle' Middle Ages," in Studies in Islamic 
History and Institutions (Leyden, 1968), 296—307- 

14. Southern, Western Views of Islam, 47—52. 

15. Christopher Dawson, ed., Missions to Asia (NewYork, 1955), 187-194. 

16. Southern, Western Views of Islam, 48. 
1 7- Southern, Western Views of Islam, 5 1 . 

18. Dana Carleton Munro, "The Western Attitudes Toward Islam During the 
Period of the Crusades," Speculum 6 (1931): 329—43. 

19. In A. J. Arberry, Arabic Poetry (Cambridge, 1965), 56. 


20. "Apollyon" seems to be a corruption of "Allah" and "Tervagant" is perhaps a 
corruption of "Tariq," the Muslim conqueror of Visigothic Spain in 711. 

21. Travels of Ibn Jubayr, ed. by William Wright, 2d rev. ed. by M. J. de Geoje 
(Leyden, 1907), 287—333. See Alauddin Samarrai, "Medieval Commerce 
and Diplomacy: Islam and Europe, A.D. 850—1300," Canadian Journal of 
History 15:1 (April, 1980): 1-21 (esp. 19-20); also, Alauddin Samarrai, 
"Some Geographical and Political Information on Western Europe in the 
Medieval Arabic Sources," The Muslim World, 72:4 (October, 1972): 
304-22 (esp. 316-19). 

22. Michele Amari, / Diplomi Arabi del R. Archivio Fiorentino (Florence, 1 863), 
Arabic doc. I, 1-6; Latin Doc. VI, 255-256. 

23. Michele Amari, "Nuovi ricordi arabici su la storia di Genova," in Atti della 
Societa Ligure di Storia Patria (Genoa, 1867), doc. I, 1—5 (Arabic text); 
593-600 (Italian tr.). 

24. A. R. Nykl, Hispano-Arabic Poetry and Its Relations with Old Provencal Trou- 
badours (Baltimore, 1946), 379. 

25. Alauddin Samarrai, "The Idea of Fame in Medieval Arabic Literature and Its 
Renaissance Parallels," Comparative Literature Studies 16 (1979): 279—93. 

26. Inferno IV, 129, 143—144, see Southern, Western Views of Islam, 55—56 and 
notes 17 and 18. 

27. Inferno, XXVIII, 23ff. 

28. Southern, Western Views of Islam, 54. 

29. On Sirr al-Asrar, see Abdurrahman Badawi's edition, Pontes Graecae Doctri- 
narum Politicarum Islamicarum (Cario,1954). A Latin version was edited 
with glosses by Roger Bacon, Opera Hactenus Inedita Rogeri Baconi, V (Se- 
cretum Secretorum), ed. Robert Steele (Oxford, 1920). Allan H. Gilbert, 
"Notes on the Influence of the Secretum Secretorum," in Speculum 3 (1928), 
84—98, examines the influence of this work on the West. See the lengthy 
study by M. Manzalaoui, "The Pseudo-Aristotelian Kitab Sirr al-Asrar. Facts 
and Problems," Oriens, vols. 23-24 (1974): 147-257. 

30. Allan H. Gilbert, Machiavelli's Prince and Its Foreunners (1938; rpt. New 
York, 1968), 88-89. 

31. Ibn Khurdadhbih wrote (846) his al-Masalik wal-Mamalik in which he de- 
scribes the Rus merchants. See Bibliotheca Geographorum Arabicorum, ed. 
M. J. de Goeje, VI (Leyden, 1889, rep. 1967), 154-55. 

32. For example the thirteenth-century Hereford mappamundi includes the 
Phanesii. See Jane Acomb Leake, The Geats of Beowulf A Study in the Geo- 
graphical Mythology of the Middle Ages (Madison, 1967), 89. Dicuil (ninth 
century) also mentions creatures who cover themselves with their large ears. 
"Aliae, in quibus nuda corpora praegrandes ipsorum aures tota contegunt." 
Dicuili Liber de Mensura Orbis Terrae, ed. J.J. Tierney with contributions by 
L. Bieler, Scriptores Latini Hiberniae, v.6 (Dublin, 1967), 7.21. See Alauddin 
Samarrai, "Beyond Belief and Reverence: Medieval Mythological Ethnogra- 
phy in the Near East and Europe," The Journal of Medieval aiid Renaissance 
Studies!?, (1993): 19^2. 


33. Samarrai, "Mythological Ethnography," deals with this. St. Ambrose and 
Isidore of Seville (in his History of the Kings of the Goths, Vandak, and Suevi) 
identify Gog and Magog with the Goths. 

34. On the Amazons, see Samarrai, "Mythological Ethnography." 

35. On the Arimaspi, see Herodotus, 3.116, 4.13, 4.27. 

36. Pliny, Natural History, 7.2.10. 

37. Al-Qazwini, 'Aja'ib al-Makhluqat wa-Ghara'ib al-Mawjudat, ed. Farouk 
Saad (Beirut, A.H. 1401/a.d. 1981.), 492. 

38. Adam of Bremen, History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, trans. 
Francis J. Tschan (New York, 1959), 4.20. 

39. Roger Bacon, Opus Majus, 1:377 (English), 1:360 (Latin). 

This page intentionally left blank 

Chapter Seven 

Islam in the 

Glo ssa r dinar i a 

Ernest K^a ulb ach 

Some background information will help to clarify what is meant by 
"Islam in the Glossa Ordinaria," or the presence of Islamic doctrine in 
medieval Christian commentary on the Bible. 1 The time is 
1220—1240. The place is the University of Paris. The circumstances are as 
follows. By 1220, the Parisian Masters of Theology had been reading the 
Qur'an in Latin for some 70 years. For the same period of time, they had 
lectured on Arabic interpretations of Aristotle's works, translated from Ara- 
bic into Latin. 3 And almost for the same period of time, they were adopting 
Peter Lombard's Sentences as the primary textbook for the study of theology. 
By 121 0, 5 when Arabic interpretations of Aristotle were brought to bear 
upon theological questions in the Sentences, the interpretations were becom- 
ing so sanctioned or censured that references to Islamic thought in the works 
of the Parisian Masters of Theology were and are difficult to recognize. 

Despite theological censure, at least three of the Parisian Masters contin- 
ued to use Arabic-Aristotelian science in their interpretations of the Sen- 
tences. Phillip the Chancellor, Alexander of Hales, and Jean de la Rochelle 
used the new physiology to explicate Deut. 6:5: "Diliges Dominum Deum 
tuum ex toto corde tuo, et ex anima tua, et ex tota fortitudine tua (You shall 
love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your 
whole strength)," with the change of "strength" to "mind." "Heart-soul- 
mind" was considered a triunity, as three separate functions of the one 


human soul. The new Arabic-Aristotelian science permitted the Masters to 
interpret the triunity as three different physiologies or "motions" of the soul 
(Greek "physis" translates into the Latin "motion"). Each human being 
"moves" himself/herself by vegetable functions ("soul"), by animal functions 
("heart"), and by rational functions ("mind"). If a person "moved" his/her 
"heart-soul-mind" in moral unison, he/she could be said to "love God." 
"God" was understood to be the Source of all motion, the "Prime Mover" of 
the physiology. The person's "love" of God was interpreted to mean that his 
or her moral "good" was, as it were, a magnetic attraction toward God as the 
"Highest Good." Such a physiology of Deut. 6:5 explicated distinction 27 
of the Book 3 of Sentences, entitled "De caritate qua diligitur Deus et prox- 
imus, quae in Christo et in nobis est (On the Charity, Whereby God and 
neighbor are loved, a Charity in Christ and in us)." Charity was conceived 
to be a higher love, since charity belonged both to Christ and to man. The 
three Masters followed the method of Peter Lombard's theologizing. The 
major premise is this: "caritas est dilectio" (charity is love). The minor is this: 
"dilectio" is common to both "caritas" and to Deut. 6:5. The conclusion fol- 
lows: "caritas" is shared both by Christ and us. 

"Islam in the Glossa Ordinaria" means that, in distinction 27 of the 
Book 3 of Sentences, Phillip the Chancellor and Alexander of Hales add to 
the Glossa Ordinaria on Deut. 6:5 the suggestion that anyone who loves the 
Lord with an Arabic-Aristotelian triunity (spirit-heart-soul) has charity. A 
simple change in the theological gloss of Deut. 6:5, from the triunity 
"cor-mens-anima (heart-mind-soul)" to the triunity "spiritus-cor-anima 
(spirit-heart-soul)," makes Christian theology more consonant with Arabic- 
Aristotelian science. An Islamic triunity (spirit-heart-soul) creeps into the 
Glossa Ordinaria on Deut. 6:5, when the Franciscan Master, Alexander of 
Hales, introduces Peter Lombard's Sentences into the theological curriculum 
at the University of Paris in the 1230s. 7 

The creeping begins with Phillip the Chancellor's use of the gloss in dis- 
tinction 27, continues with Alexander of Hales's use of the same gloss in his 
distinction 27, and concludes when Alexander of Hales's compeer and col- 
league, Jean de la Rochelle, adds an Avicennan triunity to the gloss in dis- 
tinction 27. 

The Gloss on Deut. 6:5 in Distinction 27. 

Peter Lombard instances Deut. 6:5 to prove that charity is common to 
Christ and to us: 

De caritate qua diligitur Deus et proximus, quae in Christo et in nobis est . . . 
Caritas est dilectio qua diligitur Deus propter se, et proximus propter Deum 


vel in Deo . . . Haec [caritas] habet duo mandata . . . Primum est: Diliges 
Deum ex toto corde, ex tota mente, ex tota anima, quod scriptum est in 
Deuteronomio (About the Charity, Whereby God and neighbor are loved, a 
Charity in Christ and in us . . . Charity is the love by which God is loved on 
account of Himself, and the neighbor on account of God or in God . . . This 
charity has two commandments . . . The first: "You shall love the Lord with 
your whole heart, with your whole mind, with your whole soul," the com- 
mandment written in Deuteronomy). 8 

The Vulgate text of Deut. 6:5 reads "Diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto 
corde tuo et ex tota anima tua et ex tota fortitudine tua (You shall love the 
Lord God with your whole heart and your whole soul and your whole 
strength)," the final word being "strength" and not "soul." In distinction 27, 
the text instanced is Matthew 22:37, "Diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex 
toto corde tuo, et in tota anima tua and in tota menta tua" (heart-soul- 
mind), with "anima" and "mente" reversed. 9 

That is, Peter Lombard quotes not from the Vulgate text but from the 
glosses surrounding the text of Deut. 6:5 (the marginal Glossa Ordinarid). Sup- 
posedly Deut. 6:5, the text instanced, is really the gloss of Matthew 22:37 at- 
tributed to Augustine, "sed toto corde, tota anima, tota mente diligitur Deus 
(but with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole mind is God loved)." 10 To 
this triunity "heart-soul-mind," he adds another triunity from Augustine's ex- 
plication of Rm. 13:9: "ex tota corde, id est ex toto intellectu; ex tota anima, id 
est ex voluntate; ex tota mente, id est memoria (from your whole heart, i.e., your 
whole intellect; from your whole soul, i.e., from your will; from your whole 
memory, i.e., from your mind)." 11 Augustine's traditional triunity "memory- 
intellect-will" refers to the image of the Trinity of Persons in God imprinted in 
man at creation (the gloss on Genesis 1:26). "Memory-intellect-will" is the so- 
called "higher Trinity of God in man," but distinction 27 is a discussion of prac- 
tical charity not the creation of Charity. For the second "command" of Charity 
is to "love your neighbor as yourself." Distinction 27 reaches the conclusion 
that the practical triunity "heart-soul-mind" is more necessary to the virtue of 
charity than the speculative triunity "memory-intellect-will." 12 The relationship 
of one triune — "memory-intellect-will" — to the other triune — "heart-soul- 
mind" — is left hanging. 

Phillip the Chancellor's Use of Distinction 27 

In the decades between 1220 and 1240, some 70 years after Peter Lom- 
bard, and 20 years into the polemics between the Muslim interpretations 
of Aristotle and Christian interpretations of Aristotle, at the same place — 
the University of Paris — and on the same text — "De caritate qua diligitur 


Deus et proximus, quae in Christo et in nobis est" — Phillip the Chancel- 
lor introduced the new Arabic-Aristotelian science into his Summa de bono 
(Summa on the Good). When Phillip borrows from distinction 27 of 
Book 3 of the Sentences, he dutifully repeats Augustine's triunity "memory- 
intellect-will" but intensely discusses the Lombard's practical triunity "cor- 
anima-mens (heart-soul-mind)": 

Diliges Dominum, Deum tuum, ex toto corde tuo etc., ilia tria ponuntur, ut sig- 
nificetur trinitas in essentia anime, secundum quam est imago Trinitatis in- 
create, et ab ea ut sic est procedat motus caritatis. Idem enim supponitur per 
mentem et animam et cor, sed sub ratione differenti; mens enim dicitur re- 
spectu memorie, que est cognitionis conservatio, cor vero respectu motus, 
anima respectu vitae ("You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole 
heart," etc. These three are posited to refer to the trinity in the essence of the 
soul, accordingly as the soul is the image of the Uncreated Trinity, and so that 
the motion of charity proceeds from the soul as it is [in that image]. The same 
[notion] is supposed by "mind-soul-heart" but under a different rationale. 
"Mind" is said with reference to "memory" which conserves knowledge; with 
reference to "heart" which conserves "motion;" with reference to "soul" which 
conserves "life"). 13 

Phillip thinks of charity as a "motus," literally a "motion" stemming from 
a physiology, a moral and divine physiology, if you will. If the triune God is 
one God and three Persons, then God is the well-known "Unmoved Mover" 
and yet the Mover of three types of motion: motion in the memory, motion 
in die heart, motion in lite itself Augustine's traditional triunity is now un- 
derstood in terms of Aristotelian physics interpreted by Avicenna. Human 
memory, a conserver of knowledge, is the image of the Father, human heart 
is the image of the Son, human life is the Spirit. The three physiologies pro- 
ceed, as it were, from one "motion." 

In the next sentence of his commentary, Phillip changes the order of the 
triunity to "vita-mens-cor (life-mind-heart)" and introduces still two more 
triunities different from Augustine's triunity "memory-intellect-will:" 

Et tunc e contrario ordinantur; vita enim primum que Patri comparatur, mens 
secundum in qua cognitio que Filio, comparatur, et motus a corde tertium 
que Spiritui Sancto, coaptatur. Vel idem servetur ordo: cor ad vitam referri 
potest, mens ad cognitionem et anima que idem est quod animus ad motum. 
Aliter autem exponitur in Glosa. (And then they [the members of the triu- 
nity] are arranged in the opposite order. First is "Life" which is matched with 
the Father. Second is "mind," where knowledge is arranged with the Son. The 
third is motion from the heart, which is fitted to the Holy Spirit. Or the same 
[previous] arrangement may be retained: "heart" can refer to life, "mind" to 


knowledge, and "soul" — the same as "animus" — to motion, even though the 
Gloss has a different explanation). 15 

Aristotle's concept of "motion" removes this triunity even more from 
Augustine's "memory-intellect- will." 

Phillip's next sentence introduces a purely physiological triunity, on the 
grounds that the physiology comes from the marginal Glossa Ordinaria on 
Deut. 6:5, "Triplicis naturae est anima, ideo iubetur diligere tripliciter (The 
soul is of a triune nature, and so is commanded to love triply)." Phillip adds: 

Item, cum tres sint vires sive potentiae anime, scilicet vegetabilis, sensibilis, ra- 
tionalis, vegetabilis pertinet ad animam, sensibilis ad cor, rationalis ad 
mentem [It is expounded otherwise in the Glossa.} Likewise, since there are 
three powers or faculties of the soul, namely the vegetative, sensitive [and] ra- 
tional, the vegetative pertains to the soul, the sensitive to the heart, [and] the 
rational to the mind). 16 

The interlinear gloss of Deut. 6:5 (the gloss written in-between the lines of 
the Vulgate text of Deut. 6:5) gives only the interpretation of the followers 
of Augustine: 

Ex toto corde tuo [superscript: intellectu], et ex tota anima tua [superscript: 
vita], et ex tota fortitudine tua [superscript: viribus vel affectu] (with your 
whole heart [intellect], with your whole soul [life], and with your whole 
strength [powers or affect]). 

The marginal gloss of Deut. 6:5 is restricted only to the words: "Triplicis 
naturae est anima, ideo iubetur diligere tripliciter (The soul is of a triple na- 
ture; and so is commanded to love triply)." Phillip adds to the marginal 
gloss. And again, he draws from Avicenna's interpretation of Aristotle. Avi- 
cenna's On the Soul, drawing from Aristotle's teachings, says that the human 
soul is defined by three functions: 

Dicemus igitur quod vires animales primo dividuntur in tres partes. Una est 
anima vegetabilis . . . Secunda est anima sensibilis . . . Tertia est anima hu- 
mana (We will, therefore say that the powers of the soul are first divided into 
three sections. One is the vegetable soul . . . The second is the sensible 
soul . . . The third is the human soul). 17 

Avicenna's quotations of Aristotle are so numerous that the editor of the 
Summa de bono suspects that Phillip became acquainted with Aristotle by way 
of Avicenna. 18 We see Phillip the Chancellor introducing Arabic-Aristotelian 


science into the Glossa Ordinaria, by way of making the theology of distinc- 
tion 27 more physiological and practical. 

Alexander of Hales's Use of Distinction 27 

In his commentary on distinction 27, Alexander of Hales picks up on a sen- 
tence from Phillip the Chancellor's expansion of Deut. 6:5: 

Vel idem servetur ordo: cor ad vitam referri potest, mens ad cognitionem et 
anima que idem est quod animus ad motum. Dicit enim Isidorus quod ani- 
mus est principium motuum et desideriorum (Or let the same order be kept: 
"heart" can refer to life, "mind" to knowledge, and soul — the same as the 
word "animus" — to motion. For Isidore [of Seville] says that "animus" is the 
source of motions and desires). 19 

Alexander's commentary on distinction 27 neatly fits Augustine's higher tri- 
unity "memory-intellect-will" into the very passage where Phillip quotes 
from Isidore of Seville {The Etymologies, bk. 11, ch. 2, paragraph 13): 

Caritas est dilectio etc. Super finem Exodi Isidorus: "Spiritus dicitur 'mens' ab 
eo quod est meminisse; et dicitur 'cor' prout est principium motus; et 'anima' 
prout vivificatur ab ipsa." Unde ista sunt duo trina, ut dicit Augustinus [De 
Trin, X, ch.l 1, no. 18]: mens intelligentia voluntas (Charity is the love, and so 
forth. Isidore at the end of Exodus: "Spirit is called 'mind' because it remem- 
bers, and is called 'heart' because it is the beginning of physiology, and is 
called 'soul' because it lives by means of soul." Whence, these are two triuni- 
ties, according to Augustine). 20 

Instead of "mens," we read "spiritus." Instead of "mens-cor-anima," we read 
"spiritus-cor- anima," so that "spirit-heart-soul" is the lower triune correlative 
to Augustine's higher triune, "mind-intelligence-will." Alexander does not 
replace the gloss on Deut. 6:5 with the gloss of Exodus 40:16. He adds the 
gloss of Exodus 40:16 onto the gloss of Deut. 6:5, because the gloss is at- 
tributed to Isidore of Seville and used by Peter the Chancellor to introduce 
the Arabic-Aristotelian science into the Sentences. 

We see the effect of the addition some 60 lines into the same commen- 
tary on distinction 27. Alexander quotes the marginal gloss on Deut 6:5, but 
changes Peter Lombard's "heart-soul-mind" to a triune spirit, "sensible, ra- 
tional, vegetable:" 

Super 6 Deut., 5: Anima est triplicis naturae, et ideo praecipitur diligere 
Deum tripliciter, "scilicet ex toto corde tuo et ex tota anima tua etc." 
Quidam tamen exponunt, scilicet penes vegetabilem, sensibilem, rationalem 


potentiam . . . Unde ex corde quantum ad sensibilem, ex mente quantum ad 
rationalem, ex anima quantum ad vegetabilem (The Gloss on Deut. 6:5: the 
soul is of a triple nature, and so is commanded to love God triply, namely 
"with your whole heart and your whole soul," etc. Some [commentators] ex- 
plain the triune nature with reference to the vegetable, sensitive and rational 
powers [in the soul] . . . Hence, "with the heart" refers to the sensitive soul; 
"with the mind" refers to the rational soul; "with the soul" refers to the veg- 
etable soul). 

Alexander of Hales continues to use Arabic-Aristotelian science, by quot- 
ing the very passage where Phillip adds Avicennan physiology to the 

Alexander of Hales's interpretation of the Glossa on Deut. 6:5 is not Peter 
Lombard's Glossa. The editors of Alexander of Hales's commentary refer us 
to Nicolas of Lyra's Glossa as the source for this quotation. The reference is 
not helpful. Nicolas's Glossa was written at least 40 years after Alexander of 
Hales's commentary. Moreover, Nicolas of Lyra's Glossa attributes "super 
finem Exodi" not to Isidore of Seville but to Bede, and keeps the word "for- 
titudine" instead of "mente."" It is more likely that Alexander merely re- 
peats the words of Phillip the Chancellor: 

Item, cum tres sint vires sive potentie anime scilicet vegetabilis, sensibilis, ra- 
tionalis, vegetabilis pertinet ad animam, sensibilis ad cor, rationalis ad 
mentem (Also, since the powers or faculties of the soul are three, namely the 
vegetable, sensible and rational, the vegetable pertains to the soul, the sensi- 
ble to the heart, and the rational to the mind). 23 

Why does Alexander of Hales refer to Isidore of Seville "super finem Exodi?" 
What does the triune ("spiritus-cor-mens") and Isidore's new-found home in 
the Glossa on Exodus have to do with Islam? The answers to these questions 
explain "Islam in the Glossa Ordinaria." 

Jean de la Rochelle's Use of Distinction 27 

Jean de la Rochelle, Alexander of Hales's compeer, fellow Franciscan and 
coauthor of the commentary on the Sentences, shows us how Islam creeps 
into the Glossa Ordinaria. Sometime after 1236, Jean de la Rochelle com- 
posed a work attempting to reconcile the psychologies of Augustine, John of 
Damascus, and Avicenna. It has come down to us with the title Tractatus de 
divisione multiplici potentiarum animae. In the discussion of the virtue of 
charity, Jean quotes distinction 27 of Book 3 of the Sentences, "Caritas est 
dilectio qua diligitur" and gives us the context for Alexander of Hales's com- 
mentary on distinction 27: 


Item Magister in libro Sententiarum tertio: "Caritas est dilectio, qua diligitur 
Deus propter se, proximus propter Deum." Item Apostolus, I Thim. i.: "Finis 
precepti est caritas de corde puro, conscientia bona et fide non ficta . . ." Fides 
ordinat animam secundum superiorem eius faciem quantum ad potentiam ra- 
tionalem motivam in Deum prima [sic] veritatem; caritas autem ordinat earn 
quantum ad concupiscibilem potentiam in Deum summam bonitatem (Also, 
the Master in the Third Book of the Sentences: "Charity is the Love, by Whom 
God is loved for Himself and neighbor for God." Also, The Apostle [Paul], in 
I Tim., ch.l: "The purpose of the command is charity with a pure heart, a 
good conscience and non-fraudulent faith . . ." Faith sets the higher face of 
the soul in order, moving the rational power of the toward God the First 
Truth. Charity, for its part, sets the higher face of the soul in order, [moving] 
the concupiscible power to God the Highest Good). 25 

The expressions "lower face" and "higher face" set the context for Alexander 
of Hales' notion that there are two triunities: the lower triunity "spirit- heart- 
soul," and the higher triunity "mind-intelligence-will." Jean derives the 
"faces of the soul" from the Liber de anima of Avicenna, whose psychology 
Jean quotes extensively, almost always in parallel with Augustine: 

Tamquam anima nostra habeat duas facies, faciem scilicet deorsum ad cor- 
pus . . . et aliam faciem sursum . . . Ex eo autem quod est infra earn, generan- 
tur mores, sed ex eo quod est supra earn, generantur sapientiae . . . (As if our 
soul should have two faces, one [looking] down to the body . . . and the sec- 
ond face [looking] upward . . . Out of the stuff which is within anima [the 
soul in the body] are begotten morals. Out of the stuff which is above anima 
are begotten wisdoms). 

Jean applies the higher face to the acts of the higher triunity (called the "the- 
ological virtues" — faith, hope charity), and the lower face to the acts of the 
lower triunity (called the "cardinal virtues" — prudence, justice, temperance, 

Quae [virtutes] diuiduntur secundum duplicem faciem anime siue compara- 
tionem in theologicas et cardinales [virtutes]. Theologice enim ordinant 
hominem ad Deum, cardinales ad hominem. Theologice [virtutes] vero sunt 
tres secundum tres vires [anime] (And the virtues are divided according to the 
two faces of the soul or according to the relationship of the theological virtues 
to the cardinal virtues. The theological [virtues] set a person in a path toward 
God, the cardinal virtues, toward other persons. The theological virtues are 
three according to the three powers of the soul). 27 

All this creeping accommodates the psychology of Avicenna to the psy- 
chology of Augustine. The higher face or triunity is Augustine"s "memory- 


intellect-will." The lower triunity is Avicenna's "spiritus-cor-anima (spirit- 

Sicut dick Avicenna . . . triplex est spiritus: spiritus naturalis, vitalis et ani- 
malis, quemadmodum Johannitius dicit — naturalis spiritus sumit principium 
ab epate, vitalis a corde, animalis a cerebro; . . . Spiritus triplex est, naturalis, 
vitalis et animalis (As Avicenna says . . . the spirit is triune: a natural spirit, a 
vital spirit and an animal spirit, as Johannitius says — the natural spirit origi- 
nates in the liver, the vital in the heart, the animal in the brain; . . . The Spirit 
is triune, natural, vital, animal). 28 

As a consequence of Jean de la Rochelle's accommodation of Avicenna to 
Augustine, Avicenna's lower trine "spiritus-cor-anima" (spirit-heart-soul) be- 
comes hidden in pseudo-Augustine's De spiritu et anima, a work also attrib- 
uted to Bede (in the Glossa Ordinaria on Exodus 40:16) or to Isidore of 
Seville (in Alexander of Hales's commentary on distinction 27): 

Beda. Sic Anima pro diversis actionibus diversa nomina sortitur. Dum vivifi- 
cat corpus anima dicitur; dum vult, animus est; dum scit, mens est; dum 
recolit, memoria est; dum iudicat, ratio est; dum spirat spiritus est; dum sen- 
tit, sensus est (Bede. So Anima distributes its names for its various actions. 
When Anima vivifies the body, it is called "anima;" when Anima wishes, it is 
called "animus;" when it knows, it is called "mens;" when it recalls, it is called 
"memory;" when it judges, it is called "reason;" when it breathes, it is called 
"spirit;" when it senses, Anima is called "sense"). 29 

In short, Avicenna's lower triunity "spirit-heart-soul" is read into the Glossa Or- 
dinaria by way of pseudo-Augustine's De spiritu et anima attributed to Bede. 

Why all of this theological chicanery? Because of the condemnations of 
Aristotle and Avicenna. The traditional psychology of Augustine conceals the 
newer, scientific, and therefore suspect physiology of Aristotle and Avicenna. 
Why would Franciscan Masters of Theology continue to teach the suspect 
physiology in the face of censorship? The last chapter of the Rule of St. Fran- 
cis counsels certain of the friars to live and preach in the Middle East: 

XII— De euntibus inter saracenos et alios infideles 

Quicumque fratrum divina inspiratione voluerint ire inter saracenos et 
alios infideles petant inde licentiam a suis ministris provincialibus. Ministri 
vero nullis licentiam tribuant, nisi eis quos viderint esse idoneos ad mitten- 
dum (Should any of the friars choose, by divine inspiration, to go among the 
Saracens and other infidels, let him petition his Provincial for permission. The 
Provincials are to grant the permission only to those [friars] whom they see fit 
to send on the mission). 30 


Inspired by Divine Charity, certain of the Franciscan friars chose to live and 
preach in the Middle East. Divine Charity is, of course "The Charity, 
Whereby God and neighbor are loved, a Charity in Christ and in us," the 
Charity discussed in distinction 27 of the Third Book of Sentences. Islam 
creeps into this "Charity" by way of expansion of the Glossa Ordinaria on 
Deut. 6:5, repeated in Matthew 22:37: "You shall love the Lord your God 
with your whole spirit, your whole heart, your whole soul, and your neigh- 
bor as yourself." Friars practice and preach this law to Muslims and Jews and 
Eastern Christians in the Middle East. 

The Franciscan Masters seem to think that, even if Western Christians 
cannot share the same beliefs with Eastern Christians, Muslims, and Jews, 
they can at least share the same "physiology." If every Christian, Jew, and 
Muslim is physiologically "moved" by the same lower triunity — the same 
spirit — the same heart — the same soul — then every human being shares the 
same "physiology" with which to practice the love of God and neighbor. 
Arabic-Aristotelian "physiology" would seem to promote peace instead of 
crusades and dialogue instead of diatribe. 

Difficult Recognitions 

Why would three Parisian Masters try to make Avicennan triunities congru- 
ent with Augustinian triunities? The first and most obvious answer is that 
they are trying to make theological investigation more "scientific," i.e., to in- 
troduce Arabic-Aristotelian "science" into Christian Theology, previously 
dominated by the writings of St. Augustine. 31 A second and less obvious an- 
swer is that Franciscans are trying to use the "science" to make converts to 
Christianity. If Franciscans are going to preach to Jews and Saracens in the 
Middle East, they would need a "science" common to them and to the peo- 
ples to whom they preach. If all men "love" the Lord their God with their 
"whole heart" and their "whole soul," then clearly Muslims and Jews share 
the same physiology with Christians. The triune physiology would offer a 
simple paradigm for the belief in a triune God. 

A third rationale, logically plausible, theologically outrageous, and diffi- 
cult to recognize, is suggested by a complex poem composed some 150 
years after the commentaries of the three Parisian Masters: the "B-text" of 
Piers Plowman? 2 According to the B-text of Piers Plowman, the Franciscan 
gloss on Deut. 6:5 could well imply that any Christian, Muslim, Jew, or 
Gentile who loves the Lord with whole spirit, whole heart, and whole soul 
has either the Holy Spirit or the grace of God. Thus, the Christian charity, 
identified with the Arabic-Aristotelian physiology in the Glossa on Deut. 6:5 
and Matthew 22:37, would be common to Christians, Jews, Muslims, and 


In Chapter 17 of the B-text (1.12), the main character Will (who ono- 
mastically "wills" to practice degrees of the Good and True) is shown by Spes 
(Hope) a "piece of hard rock" on which is written Deut. 6:5 and Matthew 


Dilige deum bcproximum tuum (Love the [lord your] god . . . and your neigh- 
bor [as yourself], 

which Spes glosses (17, 11.18—21) 

'Whoso werchep after Jais/ writ, I wol vndertaken, Shal neuere deuel hym dere 
ne deep in soule greue; For, pou3 I seye it myself, I haue saued with pis 


Of men and of wommen many score pousand' (Whoever works according 
to this writing, I will assure, the devil shall never injure nor death-in-soul 
grieve. For, though I say it myself, I have saved with this charm many a score 
of thousands of men and women). 

There is no doubt that "Dilige deum" saves both Christians and Jews, because 
Will immediately is confused by a contradiction between salvation by belief 
in the Christian Trinity and salvation by Jewish "Spes" (Hope) in this Law of 
"Dilige deum" (17, 11.24-45). There is little doubt that this conflict is theo- 
logically outrageous, both because Abraham speaks for the Trinitarian belief 
(in Genesis 18:1—2, where the one Lord visits Abraham in the form of three 
men) and is opposed by Spes (Hope), who speaks for belief in the One God 
(in Exodus 20:2—3, where the One Lord allows "no other gods"), and because 
the confusion is settled by Charity in the form of a Samaritan (a heretic). 

In chapter 9, where this trek begins, Will mentally talks to the "lower 
face" of his soul ("anima"). Wit (Sense) informs him of a lower triunity of 
powers to practice the lower virtues. The lower triunity, called a "ghost, 
soule, inwit (spirit-soul-sense),""- guides Will to Scripture who commands 
the command of Deut. 6:5 (B 10, 11.361-62): 

loue pi lord god leuest abouen alle, and after alle cristene creatures . . . (Love 
your Lord dearest above all, and after [Him] all Christian creatures). 

At the end of the vision (ch. 12), Will practices the virtues of the lower soul: 
patience and poverty. In chapter 15, where the same trek reaches a higher 
plateau, the "higher face" of the same soul is Anima himself, who spends the 
rest of the chapter inspiring Will to the practice of Charity, out of which 
comes the argument between the other two theological virtues Faith (repre- 
sented by Abraham) and Hope (represented by Spes). In chapter 16, Will 


sees the three powers of his higher soul helped by the powers of the Triune 
God (Power, Wisdom, Spirit). 

In chapter 15, the lower triunity reemerges as "spirit-soul-sense" in the 
formula from the Glossa on Exodus 40:16 we have seen Alexander of Hales 
use (B 15, 1.39): 

Anima pro actionibus diuersa nomina sortitur: dum viuiflcat corpus anima 
est; dum vult animus est; dum scit mens est; dum recolit memoria est; dum 
iudicat racio est; dum sentit sensus est; dum amat Amor est; dum negat vel 
consentit consciencia est; dum spirat spiritus est (Anima [the soul distributes 
his names for his various actions. When Anima vivifies the body, he is called 
"anima;" when Anima wishes, he is called "animus;" when he knows, he is 
called "mens;" when he recalls, he is called "memory;" when he judges, he is 
called "reason;" when he senses, he is called "sensus;" when he loves, he is 
called "Amor;" when he refuses or consents, he is called "consciencia;" when 
he breathes, he is called "spirit." 

An Avicennan triunity is difficult to recognize in the midst of all these names 
for the soul. Yet the attribution of the formula to "Austyn and Ysodorus" 
(Augustine and Isidore) tells us that the irenic spirit of Franciscan theology 
between 1220 and 1240 still continues in the 1370s. Although difficult to 
recognize in the several hundred lines of several chapters, Avicennan doc- 
trines do explain some of the unusual psychology and the psychological 
structure of the latter half of Piers Plowman. The formula (the gloss on Ex- 
odus 40:16), the two faces of Will's soul, his lower and higher triunes, the 
relationships of his lower virtues (patience-poverty) to his higher virtues 
(faith-hope-charity) are difficult to recognize, unless we recognize the cen- 
trality of the gloss of Exodus 40:16 to all this psychology. 

The theology becomes outrageous at the beginning of chapter 15, where 
Will asks Anima if "he were cristes creature (he were the creature of Christ)" 
and Anima responds that he is "cristene in many a place" and well known in 
"Christ's court." As a proof of his "Christian" origin, Anima translates 
Isidore's formula, quoted in the gloss on Exodus 40:16, into Middle English, 
and recites the names by which he is known in Heaven by "Christ's people" 

'The whiles I quykne pe cors', quod he, 'called am I anima, And whan I wilne 
and wolde animus ich hatte' . . . 

The Glossa here means that any human soul (Anima) in any function is 
"Christian." As proof of his verity, Anima translates his Middle English for- 
mulary back into Latin immediately after naming Augustine and Isidore as 
the authorities for his claim. 


If we look at Anima's unusual definition of "Christian" in the context of 
Isidore of Seville's Etymologies, then "Christian" refers not to the sect called 
"Christianity" but to the persons "anointed with the Holy Spirit:" 

Christianus . . . de unctione deducitur, sive de nomine auctoris et cre- 
atoris ... A Christo enim Christiani cognominati . . . Vbi autem nomen se- 
cutum fuerit opus, certissime ille est Christianus, quia se factis ostendit 
Christianum, ambulans sicut et ille ambulavit a quo et nomen traxit ([The 
name] "Christian" ... is derived from an anointing, or from the name of the 
Originator or Creator . . . For Christians are so called from Christ . . . Where 
the name has followed the deed, most certainly he is a Christian who by his 
deeds has shown himself to be a Christian, living his life as He lived from 
Whom he took His name). 3 

The terms "Christ" and "Christian" refer to the "anointing," and then to the 
imitation of a way of life. "Christian" does not refer to the belief in the di- 
vinity of Jesus Christ as much as it refers to "anointing by the Holy Spirit:" 

Christus namque a chrismate est appellatus, hoc est unctus. Praeceptum enim 
fuerat Iudaeis ut sacrum conficerent unguentum, quo perungui possent hi qui 
vocabantur ad sacerdotium vel ad regnum . . . Nam chrisma Graece, Latine 
unctio nuncupatur, quae etiam Domino nomen adcommodavit facta spiri- 
talis, quia Spiritu unctus est a Deo Patre, sicut in Actibus (4,27): "Collecti 
sunt enim in hac civitate adversus sanctum Filium tuum, quern unxisti": non 
utique oleo visibili, sed gratiae dono, quod visibili significatur unguento. Non 
est autem Salvatoris proprium nomen Christus, sed communis nuncupatio 
potestatis. Dum enim dicitur Christus, commune dignitatis nomen est; dum 
Iesus Christus, proprium est vocabulum Salvatoris (Christ derives His name 
from chrism, i.e., anointed. For it was a precept to Jews that they make a holy 
oil with which they could anoint those called to the priesthood or kingship. 
In Greek it is named "chrism," in Latin, "ointment." Now a spiritual deed ac- 
commodated the name "anointing" to the Lord, because by the Spirit He was 
anointed by God the Father in the Acts [4:27], "They have been gathered in 
this city against Your Holy Son Whom You have anointed," not by visible oil 
but by the gift of grace signified by the visible anointing. The term "Christ" 
is not proper to the Saviour but is a term applied to anyone in power. When 
[only] "Christ" is said, it is a term applied to dignity. When "Jesus Christ" is 
said, then it is a proper term for the Saviour). 35 

"Christian" is a term of dignity, a term used for many people ("common"). 
"Christian" is not primarily a term for a sect. Anyone is "Christian" who has 
the names that Anima has and who practices the Law Anima preaches "Love 
God and neighbor" (Diliges deum & proximum). In Piers Plowman, the gloss 
of Exodus 40:16 refers to those souls who are "anointed with the Holy 


Spirit." Any Christian, Muslim, Jew, or Gentile who loves the Lord with 
whole spirit, whole heart, whole soul has either the Holy Spirit or the grace 
of God. 

What emerges toward the end of chapter 1 5 is Will's higher understand- 
ing of Deut. 6:5 and Matthew 22:37, as glossed by the following passage: 

For Sar3ens han somwhat semynge to oure bileue, For \>ei loue and bileue in 
o [lord] almyghty And we lered and lewed [bileuef) in oon god; Cristene and 
vncristene on oon god bileuejj (For Saracens have something similar to our 
belief For they love and belief in one Lord Almighty And we learned and un- 
learned believe in one God; Christened and unchristened believe in one God). 

A few lines later, the "bishop" tells Will to go to the Middle East in the spirit 
of the Rule of St. Francis (B 15, 11.498-503), and repeats the Law that "bish- 
ops" live by (B 15, 1.584): "'Dilige deum & proximum" (Matthew 22:37). At 
the end of the chapter, Anima even outlines the sermon to be preached to 
the Saracens, Jews, and Eastern Christians (B 15, 11.605—13): 

Ac pharisees and Sar3ens, Scribes and [Grekes] 

Arn folk of oon feijj; \>e fader god pei honouren. 

And sipen pat pe Sar3ens and also pe Iewes 

Konne pe firste clause of oure bileue, Credo in deum 

patrem omnipotentem, 

Prelates of cristene prouinces sholde preue if pei my3te 

Lete hem litlum and litlum et in Iesum Christum filium, 

Til pei koupe spelke and spelle et in Spiritum sanctum, 

Recorden it and rendren] it wip remissionem peccatorem 

Carnis resurrecionem et vitam eternam. amen 

(But Pharisees and Saracens, Scribes and Greeks 

Are people of one faith; they honor God the Father. 

And since the Saracens and the Jews 

Know the first article of our belief, 

"I believe in God the Father Almighty," 

Prelates in Christian Provinces should attempt to 

Teach them little by little And in Jesus Christ the Son, 

Till the Saracens and Jews know how to speak and recite 

"And in the Holy Spirit," 

Know how to keep it in their hearts and render it with 

"The remission of sins, the resurrection of the body 

and life everlasting. Amen"). 

This would appear to be a sermon converting Jews and Muslims to a belief 
in the divinity of Jesus Christ, "And in Jesus Christ the Son,'" as the article 
states in the "Apostles' Creed." 3 In other words, Anima is trying to make 


the common word "christ" or "christian" into a more proper word "Jesus 
Christ" or "Christian who believes in Jesus." But Anima accepts the outra- 
geous theology that anyone is "christian" who loves God with a whole spirit, 
a whole heart, and a whole mind. Anima and the Piers Plowman poet ex- 
pound an interpretation of Deut. 6:5 to be found nowhere except in the 
Franciscan theology between 1220 and 1240. 


1 . "Glos(s)a Ordinaria," Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, vol.2, eds., 
F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingston (London, 1974), 572. 

2. M.-T. d'Alverny, "Deux traductions du Coran au Moyen-Age," Archives 
d'Histoire Doctrinale et Litteraire du Moyen Age 22-23 (1947-48): 87. 

3. Abdurrahman Badawi, La Transmission de la Philosophic Grecque au Monde 
Arabe (Paris, 1987), 75-108. 

4. As summarized in "Peter Lombard," Oxford Dictionary of the Christian 
Church, vol.2, 1073, the four books of the Sentences expounded controverted 
theological questions concerning the Trinity (bk. 1), the Creation and Fall of 
Man (bk.2), the Incarnation of Christ, the Virtues and the Decalogue 
(bk.3), and the Sacraments and the Last Things (bk.4). The paper takes up 
a controverted question in bk.3, the charity (virtue) of Christ. 

Quotations from the Sentences are taken from the recent re-edition by the 
Franciscans in Rome, entitled Sententiae in TV Libris Distinctae, Spicilegium 
Bonaventurianum, IV-V (Rome, 1971—81), 3 vols. The translations from 
Latin are mine. 

5. See the general, historical context in Etienne Gilson, History of Christian 
Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York, 1955), 238-46, 652-55. Pierre 
Mandonnet has published the specific censures of Arabic-Aristotelian texts 
in "Tractatus de erroribus philosophorum Aristotelis, Averrois, Avicennae, 
Algazelis, Alkindi et Rabbi Moysis," Siger de Brabant et TAverroisme Latin au 
XLLLme Siecle, 2 ed., pt. 2 (Louvain), 3—7, 11—14. 

6. Sententiae III-TV {QxuTTiCchi, 1981), 2, 162-68. 

7. Sententiae in LV Libris Distinctae, Prolegomena, 117*— 18.* 

8. Sentences, bk.3, distinction 27, ch.l (Sententiae LLI-LV {Quar&cchi, 1981], 2, 
162, 11.3-4). 

9. Sentences, bk.3, distinction 27, ch.2 (Sententiae LLI-LV {Quar&cchi, 1981], 2, 
162, notes 2 and 3). 

10. "Diliges dominum deum: Aug[ustinus]," Biblia Latina cum Glossa Ordinaria 
Walafidi Strabonis et Interlineari Anselmi Laudunensis (Strassburg, ca. 1480), 

11. Sentences, bk.3, distinction 27, ch.5 (Sententiae ///-/^[Quaracchi, 1981], 2, 
165, 11.21ff, and note to paragraph 4). Augustine's words will become Peter 
Lombard's commentary on Romans 13:9 (Patrologia cursus completus series 
Latina, ed. J. P. Migne [Paris: J. P. Migne, 1844-55], 191, 1508B). 


12. Sentences, bk. 3, distinction 27, ch. 6 (Sententiae IH-IV [Quaracchi, 1981], 
2, 166, 11. 20—21). If Peter's discussion of charity were not practical but the- 
oretical, the words "On the Charity" could refer not only to the theological 
virtue "charity" but also to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, 
as the Lombard concludes in Sentences, bk.l, distinction 17, ch. 2: "Spiritus 
Sanctus est caritas qua diligimus Deum et proximum (the Holy Spirit is the 
Charity Whereby we love God and neighbor)." 

After the time of Peter Lombard, theologians distinguished the virtue 
charity (called "created grace") from the Third Person of the Trinity (called 
"uncreated grace"). See Peter of Poitiers's criticism of Peter Lombard and the 
distinction in bk. 1, ch.31 of his Sententiae (Sententiae Petri Pictaviensis, ed. 
Philip S. Moore and Marthe Dulong [Notre Dame, Indiana], 1, xxxii- 
xxxviii, 268—72). 

13. Philippi Cancellarii Parisiensis Summa de Bono, ed. Nicolas Wicki, Corpus 
Philosophorum Medii Aevi: Opera Philosophica Mediae Aetatis Selecta, II 
(Berne, 1985), 687, 11.264-269. 

14. Avicenna, Philosophia prima, bk. 9, ch. 2—3; ed. as Liber de philosophia prima 
sive scientia divina V-X, by S. van Riet and G. Verbeke (Leiden, 1980), 462, 
1.43 — p. 475, 1. 77- Avicenna bases his theory of "motion" on Aristotle's 
Metaphysics, bk. 12, chs. 7-8, 1 072a 1 8-1 072b3, and On the Heavens, bk. 2, 
chs. 7-8, 289a29ff. 

15. Summa de bono, 687, 11.269—73. The interlinear gloss on Deut. 6:5 has a dif- 
ferent explanation. "Intellect" is written above "heart," "life" above "soul," 
and "powers of the soul or affect" written above "strength." 

16. Summa de bono, 687, 11.274—76. 

17. Avicenna, Liber de anima seu sextus de naturalibus I-III, ed. S. van Riet and 
G. Verbeke (Leiden, 1972), 79-80, 11.4-13. Avicenna interprets Aristotle On 
the soul, bk. 2, ch. 2, 413a, 1.22. 

18. Summa de bono, 4: "On a l'impression que c'est Avicenne qui a introduit le 
Chancelier dans la pensee d'Aristote." 

19. Summa de bono, 687, 11.271—4, referring to Isidore of Seville's Etymologia- 
rum, bk. 11, ch. 1, paragraphs 11, 13: "Item animum esse quod animam; 
sed animae vitae est, animus consilii (Likewise, mind is the same as soul; but 
'anima' refers to life, 'animus' refers to knowledge)." 

20. Magistri Alexandri de Hales Glossa in Quatuor Libros Sententiarum Petri Lom- 
bardi: Ln Librum Tertium, Bibliotheca Franciscana Scholastica Medii Aevi, XIV- 
XV, ed. College of St. Bonaventure at Quaracchi (Rome, 1954), 319, 11.2-7. 

21. Alexander of Hales, Glossa in Librum Tertium, XIV, 322, 11.3—10. 

22. See Nicolas's commentary on Exodus 40:16 in Biblia cum Glossis Ordinariis, 
et Interlinearibus . . . simulque cum Expositione Nicolai de Lyra (Venice, 
1495), vol.1; and in Opus Totius Biblie cum Glosulis tarn Marginalibus quam 
Lnterlinearibus Ordinaribus, Vna cum Venerandi Patris Nicolai de Lyra Postil- 
lis . . . (Basel, 1498), vol.1. 

23. Summa de bono, 687, 11.274—75. The editors of Alexander's commentary 
agree (Glossa in Librum Tertium, XIV, 322, 319: "Num. 1, : cf. Phil. Can- 


cellarius, Summa de bono," and explain in the Prologue to vol. XIV (8*): "sub 
appellatione 'quidam' vel 'alii,' ipsae solutiones Alexandri verbotenus a 
Philippo recitantur, nunquam autem e converso (under the name 'certain' or 
'others,' Alexander's conclusions are taken word by word from Phillip, but 
never Phillip from Alexander"). 

24. Ed. Pierre Michaud-Quantin (Paris, 1968). 

25. Jean de la Rochelle, Tractatus, 163, 11. 457-9. 

26. Avicenna, Liber de anima I-III, 94, 11. 8—14. 

27. Jean de la Rochelle, Tractatus, 140, 11. 110-15. 

28. Jean de la Rochelle, Tractatus, 105, 1. 51; and 133, 1. 164. Jean paraphrases 
Avicenna's Liber de anima seu sextus de naturalibus, bk. 5, ch. 8, ed. by S. van 
Riet and G. Verbeke as Liber de anima seu sextus de naturalibus LV-V, (Lei- 
den, 1968), 175-79. 

29. Glossa Ordinaria on Exodus 40:16 ("Erexitque Moyses illud [tabernaculum] 
and posuit tabulas [And Moses built the tabernacle and put the planks]"). 
The Glossa interprets the "planks" to mean the "Decalogue," the 10 Com- 
mandments summarized in Deut. 6:5. 

30. "Regula S. Francisci A. 1223," ch.12, Expositio Quatuor Magistrorum Super 
Regulam Fratrum Minorum (1241—1242), ed. P. Livarius Oliger (Rome, 
1950), 193. Alexander of Hales and Jean de la Rochelle were two of the four 
Masters who composed the "Expositio." Ch. 12 is the only chapter in the 
entire Rule that was not heatedly controverted, and, therefore, required no 
"exposition" by the four Masters. 

31. Recognized by Etienne Gilson in a famous study, entitled "Les Sources 
Greco-Arabes de l'Augustinisme Avicennisant," Archives d'Histoire Doctri- 
nale et Litteraire du Moyen Age 4 (1929): 5—127. 

32. Recently re-edited by George Kane and E. Talbot Donaldson as Piers Plow- 
man: The B Version (London, 1975), and again by A. V. C. Schmidt as The 
Vision of Piers Plowman: A Critical Edition of the B-Text (London, 1978). 
Quotations are taken from the Kane-Donaldson edition. 

The poet is commonly thought to have revised the "A-text" (first version) 
into a "B-text" the 1370s, and to have written the revision in an English di- 
alect found in the region of Worcestershire in the Northwest of England. 
Also, the B-text is commonly thought to have added nine chapters (known 
as "Passus") to the 1 1 chapters of the A-text. 

33. Piers Plowman, Kane-Donaldson, 9, 11. 47, 51, 54. 

34. Lsidori Hispalensis Episcopi Etymologiarum sive Originum Libri XX Etyomolo- 
giarum, ed. W. M. Lindsay (Oxford, 1962), bk. 7, ch. 14, paragraphs 1— 4. 

35. Etymologiarum, bk. 7, ch. 2, paragraphs 2—5. 

36. "Apostles' Creed," Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 75. 

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Chapter Eight 


Seven trewe bataylis 

for Jesus sake": 

The Long-Suffering 

Saracen Palomides 

Nina Duliri'Mallory 

David Copperfield is born on a Friday, he tells us, because on that 
day of the week his mother is frightened by the sudden and terri- 
fying appearance of her late husband's aunt, Miss Betsey Trotwood. 
Instead of knocking at the door like the decent, though eccentric, Christian 
woman we eventually learn her to be, Aunt Betsey presses her face, flat and 
distorted, against the window; Copperfield later recalls: "looking round the 
room, slowly and inquiringly, [she] began on the other side, and carried her 
eyes on, like a Saracen's Head in a Dutch Clock, until they reached my 
mother." 1 No Victorian reader of this first number of the novel in 1849 
would have found the sinister reference to the cold stare of a Saracen obscure 
or ambivalent. Betsey Trotwood's look was fierce. A Saracen could not pos- 
sibly have been up to any good. 

Such a perception is clearly not the fault of Sir Thomas Malory. His 
fifteenth-century depiction of the Saracen Palomides, without question 
the most complex and interesting of any literary Saracen of the period, is 
only to be feared by his enemies, and those enemies may as well be Mid- 
dle Eastern as Middle English. 


This Saracen Palomides first appears in the thirteenth-century prose Tris- 
tan cycle as Tristan's rival for Isolt, and later his story is enlarged in the 
Roman de Palamede. Earlier versions of the story of Tristan and Isolt were 
written in poetry rather than prose, of course, by Beroul, Thomas, Gottfried 
von Strassburg, and Eilert von Oberge, but Palomides does not appear until 
thirteenth-century prose cycles. In the Morte Darthur of 1485, Thomas Mal- 
ory was the first medieval author to include Palomides in any Arthurian 
compilation in English. Malory's probable knowledge of literary Saracens, 
other than his French source, would have come from his reading of well- 
known French chansons and gestes in which Saracens are occasionally virtu- 
ous, but more often wicked. 2 In the Morte Darthur, Malory generally follows 
the French prose Tristan, defining and developing his own version of the 
character of Palomides. The context from which this very literary Saracen 
emerges is valuable to briefly reconstruct. 

The perception of Muslims in twelfth-century France, in that period just 
preceding the origins of the Tristan cycle, had two aspects. Through com- 
merce and the assimilation of Eastern culture in Muslim Spain there derived 
an admiration for the accomplishments of the civilization brought from the 
East, and to a great extent, an appreciation of the famous figures of Islamic 
history: the scholar Alfarabi, the philosopher Avicenna, the scientist and 
mathematician Averroes, and the hero Salah al-Din. 3 From the crusades, 
however, the perception of the Saracens as cruel, cunning, black idolators 
advancing barbarously into the Christian north is seen in the many gestes du 
roi and chansons de geste of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the gestes 
of Garin de Monglane, Doon de Mayence, de Blaye, de Nanteuil, and de Saint 
Gilles, the enemies are Saracen, as is also the case in many of the famous 
gestes du roi, such as Fierabras and Aquin. Robert Bossuat cites the epony- 
mous cycles of Garin de Monglane and Doon de Mayence as the best known 
of all these gestes, "pour constituer le heros defenseur du trone et de la chre- 
tiente, soutien des veuves et des orphelins, qui defendra contra les Sarrasins 
la Provence, le Languedoc et la Catalogne. 

Into this literary milieu, the prose version Tristan and the Roman de 
Palamede appeared within a few decades of each other. The Roman de 
Palamede (ca. 1230) exists in no modern edition, although part of the orig- 
inal romance that had been printed in Paris by Antoine Verard as late as 
1501, Gyron le Courtois, was reprinted in 1980. The roman, while having 
little to do with the adventures of Palomides himself, tells a great deal of the 
history of the knights the Italians would later call the "Old Table" — that 
generation of Utherpendragon and Palomides's father, Esclabor. Many of 
the details of Palomides's origins are to be found there, as well as in the ear- 
lier prose Tristan. Palomides is a noble Saracen whose father, "un gentil- 
homme pai'en de Babylone," 5 saved the emperor from attack by a lion, and 

"seven trewe bataylis for Jesus sake" 167 

was sent to Logres with his family and his uncle Alphazar to escape a plot 
to kill him after he was wrongfully accused of the emperor's nephew's death. 
Esclabor's wife, Palomides's mother, was Irish and had been shipwrecked 
before the story begins, though we do not learn exactly where she landed or 
what she was doing on a ship in the Mediterranean. This Irish-Arabic 
parentage is important because it is clear that in these thirteenth-century 
French texts, there was no interest in creating a pure and somehow potent 
Saracen, while contrarily, Malory will, in the fifteenth century English text, 
omit this Irish lady except for a single reference that makes no mention of 
her origin. Palomides has many brothers, of various numbers in different 
manuscripts, but we learn the names of only two of them in either the Tris- 
tan or the Roman de Palamede. These brothers, Sir Segwarydes and Sir 
Saphir, become baptized almost upon arrival in Logres. Palomides's refusal 
to be baptized until he makes himself worthy is a significant and unique 
characteristic. After adventures lasting two months in the city of Lonegloi 
in Northumberland, during which Esclabor and Alphazar save the life of 
King Pellinor from attack by unnamed knights of the Round Table, they 
journey to Camelot to arrive at the time of Arthur's coronation. This was a 
popular romance, and its title is frequently encountered in the catalogues 
of medieval European libraries. Emperor Frederick II expressed thanks for 
a copy in a letter of February 5, 1240, and E. G. Gardner claims it was Ar- 
iosto's favorite among all the Arthurian romances. 7 

The most extensive thirteenth-century presentation of Palomides other 
than the Tristan is Rusticiano de Pisa's compilation for Edward I. The pop- 
ularity of the compilation is indisputable: "the opening incident of Branor 
le Brun was rendered into Greek tetrameters about 1300; a set of illustra- 
tions, of which eight scenes remain, was painted on the walls of the castle 
of St. Floret near Issoire about 1350; and the romance influenced the 
Tavola Ritonda, the Orlando Innamorato, Gyrone il Cortese, and the Spanish 
Don Tristan de Leonis." 8 Other contemporary works that were influenced by 
the Tristan and the Palamede are the lengthy French prose pieces Les Prophe- 
cies de Merlin (1272—1279), written by the pseudonymous Mastre Richard 
d'Irlande, and Febusso e Breusso (1320—1325), composed by the cantastorie 
in Italy. A short cantare somewhat later in the century, Tristano e Lan- 
cielotto, is based on an episode from Rusticiano's compilation in which 
Palomides and Tristan engage in battle; they vow to cease but return eight 
days later to resume; at that second contest, Tristan fights Lancelot think- 
ing he is Palomides. 9 

Palomides's distinguishing characteristics in both the thirteenth-century 
Tristan and the fifteenth-century Morte Darthur are his incessant suit for the 
hand of Isolt, his pursuit of the Questing Beast, his position at the Round 
Table below Lancelot, Tristram, and Lamorak as fourth best knight in the 


world, his identity as a Saracen, and his determination to fight seven battles 
for Christ before his baptism. In all this, Palomides's struggle produces con- 
siderable suffering as a result of what cannot be, and passionate and emo- 
tional passages worthy of more critical attention than they have yet received. 
Palomides's dual grief is that he loves a lady he cannot have, and that he hon- 
ors and admires (though in his jealousy he also hates) the knight who is her 
lover. From the moment he sees Isolt he knows he can love no other. In an 
episode in which he actually abducts Isolt, Palomides is pursued by Tristram 
to the castle of Sir Adtherpe, and when the inevitable battle begins between 
the suitors, Isolt entreats them to stop for fear Palomides will die a Saracen. 
Here, and seemingly as punishment, Isolt sends Palomides to Camelot with 
a message for Queen Guinevere that there are only four lovers in all the 
world: Lancelot and Guinevere, and Tristram and Isolt. Regardless of rebuffs 
and failures, the Saracen never gives up his love of Isolt, nor does he ever take 
another lover. In this regard he is much more faithful than his Christian bet- 
ter who is often impressed with the beauty of other ladies, once tries to 
abduct Segwarydes's wife, and eventually marries a different Isolt — Isolt le 
Blaunche Maynes. 

The pursuit of the Questing Beast by Palomides is a curious diversion 
from the main narrative of the Tristram story. Palomides takes up the pur- 
suit after the death of Pellinor, who had followed and attempted unsuccess- 
fully to capture the beast all his life. This beast has the head of a serpent, the 
body of a leopard, the buttocks of a lion, the feet of a hart, and a yelping 
("questyng") emanating from his belly like the yapping of 20 pairs of 
hounds. Palomides never captures the beast either, but he is often identified 
as the knight in search of it, and there are two instances in the Morte Darthur 
of the beast's appearance followed by Palomides in pursuit. This feature of 
the Saracen's history has remained popular: Edmund Spenser includes the 
beast in Book 6 of The Faerie Queen, though it is pursued by Pelleas and 
Lamorak rather than Palomides; Smollett adopts the beast as a figure for the 
mob in his "Adventures of an Atom"; Byron, too, refers to the beast in un- 
published lines from Canto 1 of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage; and in this cen- 
tury, Brian Kennedy Cooke's The Quest of the Beast follows Palomides's 
adventures using this pursuit as a focus. 10 

As a courageous, powerful, and celebrated knight, Palomides ranks 
among Arthur's greatest knights below only Lancelot, Tristram, and Lam- 
orak. Of the eight duels of chivalry in the Morte Darthur, Palomides wins 
three, Lancelot wins three, and Tristram and King Mark each win one. Palo- 
mides is capable of success in tournaments against both Tristram and Lam- 
orak (as well as against other less skilled knights), and only Lancelot's 
strength is entirely beyond that of all other knights, including Palomides. 
The Saracen knight is also significantly involved in all three major tourna- 

"seven trewe bataylis for Jesus sake" 169 

ments in the Book of Sir Tristram in the Morte. In the tournament at the 
Maiden's Castle, he fights for King Arthur's side, and on the third day en- 
gages in a fierce battle with Tristram that leaves them both wounded. In the 
tournament at Surluse, on the first day Palomides beheads Sir Gonerydes, 
on the second day he beheads Sir Gonerydes's brother Sir Archade, and on 
the third day gravely wounds Sir Blamoure and battles to exhaustion against 
a challenger he cannot defeat, discovered later to be Lamorak. In the tour- 
nament at Lonezep in an impassioned effort to win the worship of Isolt, 
Palomides is more successful than in any other contest. When he sees Isolt 
cheering Tristram, Palomides fights more aggressively; unfortunately, in his 
zeal he accidentally beheads Lancelot's horse, and Lancelot advances at him 
"wyth his swerde naked in his honde." 11 Palomides's response is typical of 
this Saracen's oddly humble determination: "jantyll knyght, forgyff me 
myne unknyghtly dedis, for I have no power nothir myght to wythstonde 
you. And I have done so muche this day that well I wote I ded never so 
muche nothir never shall do so muche in my days." 12 Lancelot agrees to giv- 
ing Palomides the prize for that day's contest "for to say the sothe, ye have 
done mervaylously well this day, and I undirstonde a parte for whos love ye 
do hit, and will I wote that love is a grete maystry." 13 

In each of these roles or aspects of his character, Palomides's suffering is 
evident. This quality of the long-suffering aspirant is not developed any- 
where by Malory so completely as in his depiction of the Saracen Palomides, 
who alone has sorrows that develop the theme of the struggle for the unat- 
tainable. He cannot rise in rank, he cannot win Isolt, and he cannot capture 
the Questing Beast. Only as a Saracen in pursuit of his soul's salvation does 
he succeed, and then only after the wounds of the many battles he has de- 
termined he must fight in order to be worthy of baptism. 

Before the arrival of Palomides, knights of the Round Table knew what to 
expect of Saracens: they had no honor, they were allied with the devil, and they 
were "liable to emit a most unpleasant smell when their heads were cut off." 
The fact that even after the rest of his family had been baptized we have the 
unredeemed Palomides to observe is significant in the Morte: this Saracen will 
fight in battles every one of which puts him in peril of a mortal wound that 
would send his soul to hell; we have also to observe him as a Saracen lover 
whose great passion for Isolt is hopeless because she loves a greater and Chris- 
tian knight; and we observe him as a Saracen who takes up the most puzzling 
quest of the entire Morte Darthur — the search for the Questing Beast. 

Clearly, Malory has no intention of mitigating Palomides's Saracen na- 
ture. The expectation that Palomides will be dishonorable, if not utterly 
wicked, makes him a complex character who can be used for Malory's 
purposes in reworking his French Tristan source. Given this undiluted 
Saracenness, Palomides is still the fourth best knight in the world. This 


"place" is occupied nowhere in Arthurian literature except in the depic- 
tion of Palomides: knights, including Palomides's brothers and father, are 
or become Christian, or they suffer death at the hands of Christian 

Three characteristics of Palomides in the French prose Tristan, which 
Thomas Malory used as his source, are the basis for his character in the 
Morte. First, his speech is eloquent and highly metaphorical; second, he is, 
uncharacteristically for a Saracen, humble; third, his prowess as a knight 
worthy of worship is known throughout the world. 

Palomides's speech, particularly that about love and about his hopeless 
situation in regard to Isolt, rivals anything in the Tristan. His is a vif amour, 
his cause exquisitely sad, and the highly figurative nature of the language he 
uses echoes his Arabic origins. At one point in the Tristan, Palomides ex- 
presses the plight of a lover in these words: 

He who gives his heart to love is like the fool who climbs the mountain to 
grasp the moon he sees resting on the summit; love is like a candle in the ob- 
scurity of night, the gleam invisible to everyone but the lover; or like the most 
beautiful flower growing from out the thorn. Love gives birth to courtoisie, the 
highest hope of man. 15 

Later in the Tristan, when Palomides is claiming the pursuit of the Questing 
Beast for himself alone, he says his other life's quest is the fair Iseult, "the rose 
and virtue of the entire world, the flower worth more than gold." 

Another remarkable characteristic in Malory's French source is the Sara- 
cen's considerable humility, a quality not attributed to any other Saracen, 
and indeed generally in contrast with the perceived view of Saracens. At the 
tournament at the chateau of Ganan, for example, Tristan overhears the ex- 
hausted Palomides cry, "God of Heaven, why do you forget me thus, me 
who calls to you day and night? Yet I am not ashamed; if I have been dis- 
honored today, it is not because of you, but because ofTristan." 17 Soon after 
that battle when Dinadan and Tristan are disguised and imprisoned with 
Palomides at Darras, Dinadan asks Palomides what he would do if he 
chanced upon Tristan in these circumstances; Palomides answers, "I would 
show him the honor and service due my better, because of sa haute cheva- 
lerie." 18 Tristan is so moved that he promises never again to seek the death 
of Palomides (although he will), and says he is now sorry for having fought 
him so many times. At the end of his imprisonment at Darras, Palomides 
again exhibits this humility when he observes, "for all men, prison admon- 
ishes the wicked and defeats the haughty." 19 

Third, Malory encountered in his source a repeated insistence on the ex- 
traordinary strength and courage of the Saracen. In MSS. 99 and 103 

"seven trewe bataylis for Jesus sake" 171 

Brunor calls Bleoberis and Palomides the two best knights in the wotld; in 
MS. 102 Lamorak calls Palomides the best knight in the wotld save 
Lancelot, though he does not know Palomides's name, only that he is "le 
chevliet a la beste glatissant;" 20 in MSS. 99 and 103 (and othets) Palomides 
is once ovetthrown by Bleobetis, but is said nevertheless to be the greater 
knight because he is "bolder and more gallant;" 21 Tristan himself calls Palo- 
mides "one of the four best knights in the world." 22 

Another way this characteristic is manifested is in Palomides's frequent 
willingness to take up others' burdens when Christian knights consistently 
pursue their own interests. When the King of the Red City has been mur- 
dered, for instance, Palomides is the only knight who will agree to find and 
punish the assassins; Tristan refuses because he is afraid he will be too late ar- 
riving at the tournament at Lonezep, where he intends to earn greater wor- 
ship from Isolt. Palomides accomplishes this deed and still arrives in time for 
the tournament. 

Surely, however, the most significant testament to Palomides's prowess as 
knight comes from the history of Charlemagne included in the Tristan. Al- 
though it was not later retold by Malory, it appears in the French manuscripts 
already quoted above and believed to be closest to his lost direct source. The 
narrative contains the highest praise of Palomides to be found in any 
Arthurian material. It is a concluding episode that relates that 130 years after 
the death of Arthur, Charlemagne had conquered England where he heard 
stories of the great deeds of Galahad, Tristan, Lancelot, and Palomides. 
Charlemagne reasons that Arthur's renowned kingdom was a result of having 
had these, the best knights in the world. Charlemagne writes all this down in 
a book, and he leaves England with the swords of Tristan and Palomides, 
which he has found in an abbey. When the swords are tested and compared 
to the sword of Roland, Palomides's is judged the best of the three. Charle- 
magne keeps Palomides' sword for himself, and he gives Tristan's sword to 
Ogier le Danoys. This Charlemagne story, according to Eilert Loseth, is evi- 
dently an invention of some early redacter who felt it necessary to give moti- 
vation for the obvious preference there is for these knights. It concludes, in 
Loseth's account, by relating that in Charlemagne's old age he liked to retell 
the stories of these four knights to a cleric after dinner, and that: 

he always cried about the death of Tristan, whom he believed to be without 
equal and superior to Galahad, just as he preferred Palomides to Lancelot, 
though the reason is not clear, because the story of the Sant Graal does not say 
that Lancelot is less worthy of praise than Palomides. 23 

In the end, in both the Tristan and the Morte Darthur, the excellent 
knight Palomides is, of course, baptized. He has fought his battles for 


Christ's sake, as he has set out to do, and his reward is salvation. He has 
been, in fact, in every observable way, Christian all along. Or he has been 
a Saracen only in terms of his distant origins, not in terms of his ethics or 
behavior. This Saracen's role in the thirteenth-century French and in the 
fifteenth-century English is entirely literary. Saracens, we discover (though 
they are required to be baptized) can be good, and Christians, we discover, 
can be very wicked. 


1 . Charles Dickens, The Personal History of David Copperfield, ed. Trevor 
Blount (London, 1966), 52. 

2. Richard D. Altick, The Scholar Adventurers (New York, 1950); 75, and P. J. C. 
Field, The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory (Cambridge, 1993), xxvi. 

3. Richard Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages, 2d printing 
(Cambridge, Mass., 1978), 7. 

4. Robert Bossuat, Extraits des chansons de geste (Paris, 1935), 9. 

5. Eilert Loseth, Le roman en prose de Tristan: analyse critique d'apres les manu- 
scrits de Paris (rpt. New York, 1976), 439. 

6. William Matthews, The Ill-Framed Knight: A Skeptical Inquiry into the Iden- 
tity of Sir Thomas Malory (Berkeley, Ca., 1966), 142^47. 

7. Edmund G. Gardner, The Arthurian Legend in Italian Literature (London, 
1930), 279. 

8. Cedric E. Pickford, "Miscellaneous French Prose Romances," in Arthurian Lit- 
erature in the Middle Ages, ed. Roger Sherman Loomis (Oxford, 1959), 325. 

9. Gardner, The Arthurian Legend, 260- 62. 

10. Brian Kennedy Cooke, The Quest of the Beast (London, 1957). 

11. Eugene Vinaver, ed., The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, 3d ed., rev. P. J. C. 
Field (Oxford, 1990), 739, lines 23-24. 

12. Vinaver, ed., Works of Sir Thomas Malory, 739, lines 31—34. 

13. Vinaver, ed., Works of Sir Thomas Malory, 740. lines 5—9. 

14. Cooke, The Quest of the Beast, 9. 

15. Loseth, Le roman en prose, 70—71. All translations are mine. 

16. Loseth, Le roman en prose, 265. 

17. Loseth, Le roman en prose, 105. 

18. Loseth, Le roman en prose, 113. 

19. Loseth, Le roman en prose, 117- 

20. Loseth, Le roman en prose, 58. 

21. Loseth, Le roman en prose, 79. 

22. Loseth, Le roman en prose, 112. 

23. Loseth, Le roman en prose, 302. 

Chapter Nine 

Noble Saracen or 

Muslim Enemy? 

The Changing Image 

of the Saracen in 

Late Medieval 
Italian Literature* 

Gloria Allaire 

In a 1977 study, John Patrick Donnelly pointed out the "shapelessness of 
Moslem culture" portrayed in High Renaissance epic poems, and the ap- 
parent absence of "a sense of European racial superiority over Turks and 
Arabs." 1 In a more recent study, Antonio Franceschetti suggested that this 
"improvement in the attitude of Italian writers towards the 'Saracens'" dur- 
ing the course of the fifteenth century was due in part to various changes ini- 
tiated by the Florentine prose writer Andrea da Barberino (ca. 1371— ca. 
1431). 2 On the other hand, Peter Noble assures us that "[t]here was already 
a long tradition of respect for certain Saracens" in French epic poetry, evi- 
dence of which may be found in the figure of Margariz in the Chanson de 
Roland? Taking these varying opinions as a point of departure, this essay will 
attempt to fill the gaps left by the aforementioned studies by examining 
chivalric texts that they ignored. With the Chanson de Roland, the supreme 


paradigm of Old French epic, as one terminus, and the Italian Renaissance 
epic, representative of the genre's fullest flowering, as the other, I will seek to 
determine if the image of the Saracen in late medieval Italian literature did 
indeed change with respect to its chanson de geste predecessors, and how 
later adaptations of this literary material reflected, or departed from, French 
models. Throughout this study, I use the term "Saracen" to differentiate the 
literary construct from its historical Muslim counterpart. I will focus on the 
Saracen warrior, although other marginalized figures such as Muslim 
women, "priests," or merchants are also represented in these texts. 

Although the above-mentioned studies hold great interest for us, it is im- 
portant to note certain fallacious assumptions made by modern critics due 
to their use of too small a sampling of texts. For example, Franceschetti's as- 
sertion (in line with Donnelly's earlier hypothesis) that "there is apparently 
not much relation between historical Saracens and those depicted in Italian 
chivalric literature" can be disproved by examining a text such as Guerrino 
il Meschino by Andrea da Barberino. 5 Although Franceschetti granted this 
same author a pivotal role in the rehabilitation of the Saracen, the omission 
of this crucial text (which, to be fair, badly needs a critical edition) seriously 
mars the conclusions reached in his study. Similarly, Donnelly errs when he 
suggests that "Ariosto invents a Moslem clergy after the western pattern." It 
is, in fact, possible to find the notion of a "Saracen" priesthood in Italian 
texts prior to Ariosto, notably, once again, in Guerrino, composed in the first 
or second decade of the fifteenth century and widely circulated. When deal- 
ing with medieval texts, scholars must guard against privileging modern no- 
tions of creativity and originality at the expense of fairly considering 
standard medieval compositional processes that allowed for rewriting, trans- 
lating, and compiling. Before venturing attributions of originality in discus- 
sions of style, one needs to be familiar with a huge body of French and 
Franco-Italian literary sources, as well as their later adaptations into Tuscan. 
As one's familiarity with these texts expands, it becomes clear that many as- 
sumed "innovations" were actually grounded in older conventions. As such, 
they were part of an ongoing evolutionary process in the narrative arts that 
stretched not only across centuries, but across national boundaries, lan- 
guages, and literatures. 

By the early fourteenth century, full-scale wars between Christian and 
Muslim armies were a literary commonplace. The distance of time both 
from actual historical events such as the battle of Roncesvalle in 778, and 
from eleventh-century literary models such as the Chanson de Roland, as 
well as a long tradition of translating and reworking Old French models 
into verse and prose, account for the emergence of various literary conven- 
tions of the "Saracen." From the ninth century onward, erroneous notions 
had also entered the late medieval discourse on Muslims by way of polem- 


ical writings such as those of John VIII and Eulogius of Cordoba. Many no- 
tions from learned theological sources filtered down into popular narra- 
tives. By the fourteenth century, then, Italian authors could have assumed 
that their readers or listeners would have a certain familiarity with the un- 
derlying Christian/Saracen antipathy in the Carolingian cycle narratives. 
One recalls that Dante had included several protagonists from this mater- 
ial in his Comedy? Against this largely homogeneous background, smaller 
narrative differences can be found by closely examining a sampling of texts 
often overlooked by modern criticism. These differences may be attribut- 
able to a particular author's style, the taste of his audience, the cycle or tex- 
tual tradition to which a text belongs, or the state of East- West political 
relations during which a text was composed. 

Of the texts selected for this study, several have recently been published 
or edited while others are still available only in manuscript form. 8 Works 
chosen include treatments in prose and cantari in octaves. To provide a more 
consistent sampling, I have chosen only Tuscan compositions spanning from 
the mid-fourteenth-century Orlando to Pulci's Morgante, which dates from 
the 1460s. 9 Interestingly, the latter directly reworks many portions of the 
former, as De Robertis has shown. 10 While Pulci's work was omitted from 
the analysis of Franceschetti, who considered it a Renaissance text, its inclu- 
sion among "early Italian chivalric literature" seems justifiable due to its 
many medieval components, as illustrated in Paolo Orvieto's masterful 
study. 11 I will also cite several prose works related to Andrea da Barberino: 
the attribution La Storia di Ansuigi, his proven Aspramonte and Guerrino, 
and II Libro di Rambaldo, a direct reworking of certain portions of Guerrino 
made by an anonymous fifteenth-century Florentine author. 12 

A study by C. Meredith Jones furnishes a useful catalogue of conventions 
used to represent Saracens in the chanson de geste tradition. 13 These ele- 
ments include the notion of Muhammed not only as a false prophet, but as 
a god; the conception of Islam as a false religion with its own trinity, multi- 
ple gods, idols, and a priesthood — a virtual inversion of Christian beliefs; 
swearing by Saracen gods; Saracen places of worship as counterparts to 
Christian churches; a lack of distinction between the terms "Saracen" and 
"pagan"; a lack of distinction between Muslims of various countries; depic- 
tion of Saracens as giants, devils or with some physical deformity, such as 
horns; the association of Saracens with treachery, sorcery, magic, the healing 
arts; and the frequent literary device of a duel between Christian and Sara- 
cen champions that results in the almost certain defeat of the Saracen and 
his ensuing baptism and conversion to Christianity. 

The notion of Muhammad not only as a false prophet, but as a god or 
idol to be worshipped, found regularly in chansons de geste, not unexpect- 
edly reappears in all the Italian texts examined for this study. In the earliest 


of these — Orlando — Muhammad is expressly called false and fallacious. In 
the Cantari d'Aspramonte, I Cantari di Rinaldo, and Morgante, "Macone" 
functions entirely as a god when he is called upon to bestow favor on the 
Saracens' military enterprises or to protect them in battle. 15 In several texts 
he is shown clearly in the role of a god being addressed in prayer. After a 
victory in Rambaldo, the Saracen hero and "queen" publicly thank their 
"god" Macone ("dio machone," fols. I2v—I3r). On the other hand, Macone 
is frequently derided (from the Christian authors' point of view) as being 
useless and powerless. 17 The Islamic prophet is called "Muhammad God" or 
"Muhammad our god" on several occasions in Pulci's Morgante. 18 Not coin- 
cidentally, the notion of the falseness of the Islamic "gods" is stated explic- 
itly several times in Morgante: "O Muhammed, you are a false god!"; 
"Apollino and the other vain gods"; "false and wicked Muhammed." 19 The 
falseness of the Islamic faith itself, often implicit in these texts, is spelled out 
in Ansuigi when a Christian champion declares to a Saracen ruler: "Your 
faith is false and vain" ("La vostra fe' e falssa e vana," f. Av). Two unusual 
ideas pertaining to Muhammad's supposed deity — the "feast day of the god 
Muhammed" and "the sacred books of Muhammed" — are found in Ram- 
baldo and in its model Guerrino. 20 

The conventional Old French Saracen trinity — Mahomet, Tervagant, 
and Apollyon — recurs in most of the Italian texts, but often only two of the 
three are named in a single passage. 21 References to the separate members of 
the false trinity are found scattered throughout each Italian text. There are, 
however, instances in which the three gods are mentioned together. 22 A 
fourth god, borrowed from classical antiquity, is Jupiter. He was one of 
many minor gods Muslims supposedly worshipped and had long since ap- 
peared in French literature and chronicles. 23 In the Aspramonte tradition, 
"Iupiter" is considered the fourth Saracen god, and regularly appears along- 
side Macone (Maumetto), Apollino, and Trevigante. 

Explicit references to Saracen idols occur: Fierabraccia refers to "gli 
Apollini" held in an Emir's castle as synonym for "idols" (VIII, 40, 2). In MS 
Additional 10808, Breuzo, a cruel Saracen, sets up an "idol" under a rich 
pavilion (64y). Both the Cantari dAspramonte and the prose Aspramonte by 
Andrea da Barberino conserve the episode of four idols being captured and 
destroyed by the Christian armies, a scene that had appeared in the French 
original. 25 In many of these texts, the word "Macometto" also serves as a 
synonym for "idol" (Morg. XXIV, 62, 6). The erroneous idea of a Saracen 
priesthood is represented by the figure of "Albateille," a priest and "servant 
of Maumetto," alternately called "hermit," in Rambaldo (f. 24r). This char- 
acter was largely inspired by a similar passage in Guerrino (f. 123f). 

Swearing by Saracen gods, noted in Meredith Jones's study, occurs infre- 
quently in MS Add. 10808 (68v, 89r, 35v, %r), Fierabraccia (I, 28, 5), Ram- 


baldo (fols. Tlv, 28y), and Guerrino ("per lo idio Maometto," f. 63r), but is 
very frequent in Orlando, the Cantari d' Aspramonte, Aspramonte, and CWra- 
tari di Rinaldo. The oath "By Muhammed!" ("per Macometto!") occurs with 
great regularity in Morgante and its model, Orlando. There are also in- 
stances of defeated Saracens cursing their gods, but these are less frequent. 27 
Such depictions, inherited from the chansons de geste, show the Saracen he- 
roes as blasphemers capable of violent outbursts: their Christian counter- 
parts take the name of their God in vain less frequently. 

Although Old French texts occasionally featured Saracen places of wor- 
ship as a direct counterparts to Christian churches, references to mosques in 
early Italian chivalric texts are very rare, occurring only in Guerrino and Mor- 
gante. While the latter text limits these references to using the substantive 
form, the former is exceptional for its detailed architectural description of 
the interior of a mosque at Mecca. 28 

As in the chansons de geste, there is an almost total lack of distinction be- 
tween the terms "Saracen" and "pagan" in early Italian chivalric texts. Both 
these terms are borrowed from Old French (sarracin, pa'ien) and are used to 
indicate generically the enemies of Christianity. The earliest two texts I have 
examined, Orlando and Fierabraccia, nearly always use "pagani" with a few 
instances of "saracini." 29 By contrast, Aspramonte prefers "saracini," but "pa- 
gani" appears several times. 30 More often, balanced usage of the two syn- 
onyms occurs in Cantari dAspramonte, Cantari di Rinaldo, Ansuigi, 
Guerrino, and Morgante. The aggregate homeland of the Other is referred to 
as "Saracinia" or "Paganfa." Individual authors seem to have chosen one of 
these vague geographical terms to conform to their preferred adjective, 
"Saracen" or "pagan." In / Cantari di Rinaldo there is one instance of both 
Saracinia and Pagania appearing in the same stanza (XII, 36). The term "Pa- 
gania" is preferred in Orlando, MS Add. 10808, Aspramonte, and Morgante, 
but it is used less often in Cantari dAspramonte? 1 On the other hand, de- 
spite the use of both nouns "saracini" and "pagani," the author of Ansuigi 
chooses "Saracinia" when he refers generically to the Christian enemies' land 
of origin (f. 5v). 

Most Italian authors preserve the lack of distinction between Muslims of 
various countries that was found in their chansons de geste models. Such 
texts rarely name discrete cities or countries in preference for a vague, unde- 
fined, exotic landscape or broad political divisions. For instance, the action 
of MS Add. 10808 shifts between Africa and Spain, the two countries most 
often referred to in these epics, although Fierabraccia mentions India, Por- 
tugal, and Barbary in one passage and / Cantari dAspramonte contains two 
unusual references to "Africans" ("Africanti," XXI, 45, 1; XXII, 13, 3). This 
adjective also makes rare appearances in MS Add. 10808 (80r), Aspramonte 
(15, 37, 62, 109, 120) and Morgante (VIII, 7, 6; XIII, 6, 1; XX, 63, 4). In 


a single stanza of Morgante, there is an interesting appearance of all three ad- 
jectives to describe a single character: "pagano," "affricante," "saracin" (VIII, 
61). Less frequent adjectives of nationality, Turk and Persian, may be found 
in Old French texts and appear, with similar infrequency, in Italian ones. 32 
All the works of Andrea da Barberino are exceptional in this respect: his texts 
plot out a careful geography and distinguish among Saracens of various na- 
tionalities. This concept demands a geographical sophistication that most 
late medieval chivalric texts lack. In Andrea's Guerrino, Egyptians, Medians, 
and Arabs are clearly considered Saracens, and this feature is repeated in the 
derivative Rambaldo. Episodes of internecine strife within the Muslim 
world, found in Guerrino, were also copied verbatim into Rambaldo. 

The Old French depiction of Saracens as gigantic, diabolic, or deformed is 
only partially conserved by Italian authors. One bestial trait survives in the 
fourteenth-century Orlando: a fierce pagan warrior is described as having a vis- 
age "like a serpent" (XIX, 5,5). Saracen giants abound in all the Italian texts, 
but especially in the cantari. These are presented, for the most part, as fierce 
opponents, although they are usually of secondary narrative importance. A few 
are important as protagonists or antagonists: Morgante in Orlando and in 
Pulci's more famous reworking; Fierabraccia and the giantess Meota in 
Fierabraccia; Brunamonte, and four giant brothers in Cantari di Rinaldo; 
Magranis and the giantess Marmonda in Ansuigi, etc. Others appear, though 
with naturalistic depiction, in the highly verisimilar narratives of Andrea. The 
giants in his Guerrino, for example, are clearly associated with the barbaric 
"Tatar" race dwelling in the wilderness north of the Caspian Sea, as distinct 
from the more civilized Middle Eastern races. While these Saracen giants range 
from cruel to simply uncouth, in the Italian literary tradition they are no 
longer deformed or horned as in the earlier chansons de geste Meredith Jones 
analyzed. They apparently owe more to the wild man tradition of popular lore 
than to formal anti-Muslim polemics. 33 

Although Old French chansons de geste associated Saracens with treach- 
ery and Torquato Tasso's Counter- Reformation Saracens are clearly evil, the 
medieval Italian texts surveyed treat Saracens as courageous, formidable op- 
ponents who fight like gentlemen according to the rules of chivalry. They 
are described with positive adjectives such as "bold," "daring," and "gen- 
teel" in Orlando and "valiant" in Guerrino. One notable exception show- 
ing Saracen cruelty is King Vergante, who despises both Christianity and 
Islam and whips his prisoners daily (Orl. XXVI, 32—33). A chronicle-like 
passage in Aspramonte depicts the legendary cruelty attributed to Saracen 
invaders: they have beheaded numerous defeated Calabrese noblemen and 
cut off their wives' breasts (97). In Fierabraccia certain cruel and sadistic 
Saracens imprison and torture trespassers, but both sides view this behavior 
as deplorable, aberrant, and atypical. Overall, Fierabraccia presents a re- 


spectful, ennobled portrayal of the Saracen enemy. In contrast to Tasso's 
proto-Baroque portrayal, the early Italian texts surveyed feature minimal 
instances of Saracens being connected to sorcery, magic, and the healing 
arts. Fierabraccia carries vials of healing liquor on a chain on his person, 
which his Christian opponent seizes and drinks, thereby curing his wounds 
{Fier. Ill, 29—30). One finds assorted Saracen necromancers in MS Add. 
10808, Guerrino, and Morgante (XII, 81-82; XIII, 18, 2), but these are 
minor characters and their magic is not used on any large scale as it is later 
in Pulci or in Tasso. The most noteworthy magician in these texts is actu- 
ally the Christian Malagigi, who appears in MS Add. 10808, Cantari di Ri- 
naldo, and Morgante. 

Meredith Jones pointed out the device of a duel between Christian and 
Saracen champions in which the almost certain death of the Saracen is miti- 
gated by his agreement to become Christian. This important plot device is 
maintained by Italian authors: Ulivieri fights Fierabraccia {Fier. Ill); Orlando 
fights Candragone in MS Add. 10808 (79y-80r); Agolante duels with 
Ramondo in Ansuigi (f. 4r-v), and so on. I know of no instance in these texts 
in which a Christian accepts the Islamic faith to avoid death. In one unusual 
case, a Saracen who is having the worst of it agrees to accept baptism, but 
then tricks his Christian opponent in order to win (Add. 10808, 84r-y). 

The "shapelessness" of Muslim culture portrayed in High Renaissance 
epics was also present, with few exceptions, in earlier Italian texts. Saracen 
culture is essentially nonexistent in Orlando, nor is there anything inherently 
"Other" about the descriptions of Saracens in MS Add. 10808. A few details 
in other texts suggest some awareness of actual elements of Muslim culture. 
In Fierabraccia, Cantari d'Aspramonte, and Ansuigi, Saracen bowmen are 
feared for their deadly accuracy. 35 The authors of the cantari insist on the 
Saracens' wonderful mounts: two are called "perfect chargers;" others are re- 
alistically considered to be from Spain or Barbary. A rare example of East- 
ern decorative arts is found in the description of a richly caparisoned horse 
as a gift for the emperor Carlo. The bit and stirrups are ornamented with 
enamel and gold, the saddle and saddle bow are of fine ivory, and the Span- 
ish horse itself is draped with expensive sendal {Cantari dAspr. XIX, 38—39). 
In Ansuigi, one Saracen's shield is covered with serpent's skin (f. 6r). The 
Saracens in Guerrino wear turbans and carry scimitars, details assimilated in 
the imitative Rambaldo (f. 19r). One hastens to add that Guerrino, while fea- 
turing the full repertoire of conventional markers of Saracen alterity, is ex- 
ceptionally rich in factual detail. 37 In Morgante, a Saracen lady wears a 
garment of an ornate, multicolored fabric and jewels (VI, 17), and this late 
text also features the rare use of the authentic Arab greeting "Salamalec." 38 

Some inaccuracies in representing Muslim culture crop up: one Saracen 
giant operates a tollb ridge that costs 20 "fiorini" to pass (Add. 10808, 64f). 


The image of Muhammad worked in fine gold is a common device worn 
by Saracens in Italian texts ("Macon lauorato d'oro fino," Fier. II, 19, 1—2). 
A Saracen battle standard in Morgante displays a winged "Macone" on a 
field of gold (XXV, 199, 6—7). Various occidental coats of arms are assigned 
to Saracen champions in Aspramonte: for example, an eagle (119), lions 
(122, 248), dragons (208, 212), and a scorpion (287). In discussing this 
sort of erroneous heraldry in Old French epic, Meredith Jones noted that 
Muslims had, in fact, used geometric decorations. Another cultural as well 
as linguistic inaccuracy concerns the application of European titles to East- 
ern rulers. Orlando refers to the "emperor" of Media ("lo 'mperadore di 
Media," XL, 23, 2). In Rambaldo, the African Agolante is called "emperor 
of the Saracens" ("imperadore de' saraini," f. Iv). Rambaldo 's use of this 
title, normally reserved for Charlemagne, may be due to copying from 
Andrea's Aspramonte, with a perspective changed from a Christian to Sara- 
cen one. 39 By extension, Agolante 's wife is called "empress" ("imperadrice") 
in Rambaldo; this title is given as "sultaness" ("soldana") in Andrea's more 
verisimilar texts. The use of nonexotic titles may have been done simply on 
analogy with known political hierarchies, or may be interpreted as part of 
a tendency to view the conventional enemy of the Paladins as not so very 
different after all. Similarly, some Italian texts project their own culture's 
foibles onto a Saracen "Other." The magnificent wedding procession for 
Marsilio's daughter in Ansuigi, chapter 23, for example, reflects the con- 
temporary Florentine love for pomp and display more than it does authen- 
tic oriental practice. 

Although champions — Saracen or Christian — are most often briefly 
sketched with epithets, sometimes an octave or more are dedicated to the 
description of a Saracen. Such descriptions may include details of physique, 
age, moral character, lineage, armor, weapons, and horse. Prose texts, al- 
though freed from the requirements of line length and rhyme, maintain the 
brief references to physical attributes typical of the chivalric genre, but do 
sometimes feature descriptions in more detail. A Saracen priest/hermit is 
described in Rambaldo as having oily hair, a white beard, turban, ragged 
clothes: being all hairy and barefooted, he "seemed a devil" (24r). This fig- 
ure is a composite of various characters in Andrea's Guerrino. The works of 
Andrea feature Africans described with black skin, red eyes, and white 
teeth, but his texts demonstrate the desire for naturalistic depiction freed 
from the older moralistic connotations of dark skin as being ugly, hateful, 
or evil found in the French models. In the Cantari dAspramonte (X, 
15—16), as in its French model, the North African counselor to King 
Agolante, Balante, is white-skinned and blonde with a delicate, handsome 
face. In Rambaldo, Agolante's bastard daughter Ghalizella is blonde. Ram- 
baldo's author created a Saracen heroine, the Countess Siretta of the 


Castello Bello Porto: "a lovely creature — white, blonde," etc. The unlikely 
image of a fair Saracen appears much later in Tasso's Clorinda, although 
here the notion is rationalized: she turned out to have white skin because 
the decorations on her progenitors' marriage bed depicted a Caucasian 
girl. The use of white skin may be due to the infusion of courtly romance 
ideals into the epic genre. It may also be seen as less a literary faux pas than 
as representing an important reduction of the role of exoticism in these nar- 
ratives as well as an elimination of the Christian/Saracen antipathy tradi- 
tional in the crusade-inspired epic. 

In conclusion, we find that many elements of conventional Old French 
portrayals of the Saracen are solidly in place in late medieval Italian liter- 
ature, with the exception that in Italian texts the Saracen characters do re- 
ceive a more humanized, less evil or bestial representation than in the 
chansons de geste. The softening of Muslim Enemy into Noble Saracen 
may be due to the influence of particular authors, due to the ongoing in- 
fusion of romance material into that of epic, or thanks, in part, to Euro- 
pean literary constructions inspired by the historical leader Salah al-Din, 
who was seen positively as a Saracen counterpart to Richard the Lion- 
hearted. While by and large Italian literature adheres to the older con- 
ventions, in certain texts a more individuated view appears. All the 
components are in place, but the selection and emphasis of those elements 
may vary depending on the individual author's taste. For example, Sara- 
cens are extremely noble and chivalrous opponents in Fierabraccia and in 
the Aspramonte tradition, but their dangerous, violent tendencies are 
voiced strongly in Morgante. The most accurate and far-ranging descrip- 
tion of what was known or imagined about Muslim culture in the late 
fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries occurs in Andrea's Guerrino. While 
Italian chivalric texts maintain the texture of the Old French battle epics — 
descriptions of armed conflicts, displays of military prowess, crusade-like 
campaigns against Islam, or Muslim invasions of Christian territories — the 
newer emphasis on the deeds of individual knights and the details of the 
champions depicted owe much to an infusion of elements from the ro- 
mance genre. William Wistar Comfort has noted the "gradual effacement 
of the intensely vital religious and warlike spirit before the spirit of ro- 
mance" within the French genre itself, a process inherited by Italian au- 
thors. Closer contacts with real Muslims in late the thirteenth and early 
fourteenth centuries experienced by Italian missionaries, merchants, and 
pilgrims would have further encouraged the humanizing process. Eternal 
warfare would always be a staple of this literary genre, but with the intro- 
duction of romance and naturalistic elements, the enmity could be re- 
duced to humane contests of prowess between individuals, rather than 
being seen through the lenses of nationalism and religion. 



* A shorter version of this paper was presented at the 29th International 
Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, 1994. 

1. John Patrick Donnelly, S.J., "The Moslem Enemy in Renaissance Epic: Ar- 
iosto, Tasso and Camoens," Yale Italian Studies 1 (1977): 163—64. 

2. Antonio Franceschetti, "On the Saracens in Early Italian Chivalric Litera- 
ture," in Romance Epic: Essays on a Medieval Literary Genre, ed. Hans- Erich 
Keller, Studies in Medieval Culture, no. 24 (Kalamazoo, 1987), 207. 

3. Peter S. Noble, "Saracen Heroes in Adenet le Roi," in Romance Epic, 189. 

4. Franceschetti, "On the Saracens," 208. 

5. Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, MS Rice. 2226, // Meschino di Durazzo 
(more commonly known as Guerrino il Meschino) by Andrea da Barberino. 

6. Donnelly, "Moslem Enemy," 164. 

7. Roland Inferno XXXI, 18, Paradiso XVIII, 43; Charlemagne Inf. XXXI, 17, 
Par. VI, 96, XVIII, 43; Ganelon Inf. XXXII, 122; William of Orange Par. 
XVIII, 46; Renoart (Rinoardo) Par. XVIII, 46. 

8. "El Cantare di Fierabraccia et Uliuieri: Italienische Bearbeitung der Chanson 
de Geste Fierabras," ed. E[dmund] Stengel, Ausgaben und Abhandlungen aus 
dem Gebiete der Romanischen Philologie, no. 2 (Marburg, 1881) (abbreviated 
as Eier.); Cantari d'Aspramonte inediti (Magi. VII 682), ed. Andrea Fasso, 
Collezione di opere inedite o rare, no. 137 (Bologna, 1981) (Cantari 
d'Aspr); I cantari di Rinaldo da Monte Albano, ed. Elio Melli, Collezione di 
opere inedite o rare, no. 133 (Bologna, 1973) {Rinaldo); Romanzo cav- 
alleresco inedito (British Library Add. MS 10808), ed. Aurelia Forni Mar- 
mocchi, Biblioteca di Filologia Romanza della Facolta di Lettere e Filosofia 
dell'Universita di Bologna, no. 6 (Bologna, 1989) (MS Add. 10808). 

9. "Orlando Die Vorlage zu Pulci's Morgante," ed. Johannes Hiibscher, Aus- 
gaben und Abhandlungen aus dem Gebiete der Romanischen Philologie, no. 60 
(Marburg, 1886) (Orl); Luigi Pulci, Morgante, ed. Davide Puccini, i grandi 
libri Garzanti, 2 vols. (Milano, 1989) (Morg). 

10. Domenico De Robertis, Storia del "Morgante" (Florence, 1958). 

11. Franceschetti, "On the Saracens," 207; Paolo Orvieto, Pulci medievale 
(Rome, 1978). 

12. Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale, MS II. 1. 15, La Storia diAnsuigi, attributed to 
Andrea da Barberino (Ans.); Andrea da Barberino; "LAspramonte": Romanzo 
cavalleresco inedito, ed. Marco Boni, Collezione di opere inedite o rare, n.s. 
(Bologna, 1951) (Aspr.); Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale, MS Palatino 578, // 
libro di Rambaldo, by "B. cittadino fiorentino" (Ramb.) See also my Andrea 
da Barberino and the Language of Chivalry (Gainsville, 1997). 

13. C. Meredith Jones, "The Conventional Saracen of the Songs of Geste," 
Speculum 17 (1942): 201-25. 

14. "Falso Malchometto" Orl. VIII, 39, 5; XIX, 7, 1; "dio fallace" II, 16, 6. 

15. Cantari d'Aspr. X, 21-22; RinaldoYl, 31, 8; XII, 30, 5; "Aiutami, Macone!" 
Morg. XIII, 37, 2. 


16. MS Add. 10808 fols. 73r, 82v; Ramb. f. 24r; Aspr. 143, 164. 

17. Orl. I, 28, 2-3; II, 3, 4; II, 5, 5-6; II, 6, 3-4; Ayr. 107, 143, 146, 209. 

18. "Macometto Iddio" Morg. IV, 43, 2; VIII, 9, 6; "iddio Macone" XIII, 30, 3; 
"O Macon nostra iddio" XIII, 55, 6. 

19. "Macon fallace" Morg. I, 56, 4; "O Macometto, tu se' falso iddio" III, 10, 3; 
"Macon falso e rio" IV, 96, 6; "Apollino e gli altti vani iddei" IV, 97, 1; 
"Macon falso e rio" XIV, 15, 2. 

20. "La festa del iddio Maumetto" Ramb. f. 2r. "I sagri libri di Maometto" Guer- 
rino f. 40r, Ramb. fols. 2r, 23r, 42r, 58r. 

21. "Macone e '1 misero Apollino . . ." Fier. IX, 1, 7; "alio Idio mahone e a trav- 
ighante e agli altri idei di nostra fede" Ramb. f. 22 v. 

22. Orl. XXXVII, 29, 3-4; XL, 17, 1-2; XLV, 6, 1-3; MS Add. 10808 fols. 68r, 
82y, 83^, 90r; Guerrino f. 68v; Ramb. E 19r; Morg. Ill, 14, 3-4; IV, 50, 3^; 
XVIII, 116-17, XXI, 101, 5-6. 

23. Meredith Jones, "Conventional Saracen," 208. 

24. Cantari a" Aspr. XI, 13, 1-2; XXIII, 10, 1-2; Aspr. 10, 14-15, 16, 58, 65, 
82, 101, 110, 112, 209. Cf. (The Song of ' Aspremont (La Chanson d'Aspre- 
mont), trans. Michael A. Newth, Garland Library of Medieval Literature, Se- 
ries B, no. 61 (New York, 1989), 81. 

25. Cantari a" Aspr. XXII, 50, 2; Aspr. 182. 

26. "Per Macometto" Morg. VIII, 47, 8; XIII, 40, 3; "per Macon" VIII, 71, 3; 
XV, 16, 3; XV, 49, 7; see also X, 145, 5; XIII, 44, 8; "per dio Mal- 
chometto" Orl VIII, 3, 1; XI, 6, 5; XI, 18, 8; XIV, 11, 2; XVI, 32, 1; 
XXIX, 28, 1. 

27. Orl. IX, 6, 8; Fier. IV, 34, 6-7; IX, 25, 3; MS Add. 10808 fols. 76^, 84r; 
"[chi] bestemiava maometto, chi apolino, chi trevichante," Guerrino, f. 6Sv. 

28. Morg. XXVII, 38, 3; 53, 7; 240, 4 and 265, 7. See Allaire, "Portrayal of Mus- 
lims in Andrea da Barberino's Guerrino il Mescbino," in Medieval Christian Per- 
ceptions of "Islam: A Book of Essays, ed. John V Tolan (New York, 1996), 243-69. 

29. "Pagan" Orl. VII, 38, 2; VIII, 32, 7; "Saracen" Orl. XVI, 12, 2; XVIII, 18, 
7; XXIV, 20, 1; XXIX, 21, 3. 

30. "Saracini": Aspr. 13, 17, 19, 22, 25, 27, 28, 30, 32, 34, 37, 38, passim. "Pa- 
gani": Aspr. 131, 164, 171, 196, 208, 210, 212, 213, 214. 

31. "Pagania": Orl. IV, 10, 4; IV, 12, 4; IV, 21, 2; XVIII, 35, 3; XXIII, 35, 3; 
XXXVI, 24, 5; XLII, 38, 4; passim; MS Add. 10808 fols. 64r, 66r, 67 n 6§v, 
71f, 77m 82r, 88y, 9U 93r, 93w; Cantari d'Aspr. XII, 52, 3; Aspr. 141, 159, 
160; Morg. I, 19, 2; II, 14, 5; VIII, 6, 1; X, 21, 6; XII, 9, 4; XIII, 21, 8; 
XVII, 72, 4; XX, 4, 8, passim. 

32. "Turk(s)" Fier. VII, 21; Aspr. 119; Ans. fols. 7n 8y; "Persian(s)": Morgante 
XX, 71, 1; XX, 74, 1. Ansuigi also signals the nationality of a Saracen archer: 
"Butor the Arabian" ("Butor lo arabescho," f. 6v). 

33. John Block Friedman, The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought 
(Cambridge, Mass., 1981), 200; Juliann Vitullo, "Contained Conflict: Wild 
Men and Warrior Women in the Early Italian Epic," Annali d'ltalianistica 12 
(1994): 39-42. 


34. "Pagano francho" Orl. VIII, 37, 2; XVII, 18, 1; XXV, 37, 7; XXVI, 4, 6; 
"pagano francho e ardito" XV, 28, 6; "pagano ardito" XVIII, 40, 1; "pagan 
gentile" IX, 16, 7; "uno saraino molto valente della persona" Guerrino f. 200u 

35. "Archi soriani" ("Syrian bows"): Cantari d'Aspr. XXIII, 39, 1 and Morg. VIII, 
24, 3; Saracen archer Balughante Am. f. 23k 

36. "Destrier perfetto" Rinaldo VII, 4; "destrier valoroso e perfetto" Rin. XIV, 
26; "il buon varion di Spagna" Cantari d'Aspr. XXI, 30, 7; "di Barberia di 
buon caual corsieri" Fier. VII, 21,7- 

37- See my "Portrayal of Muslims." 

38. Morg. XII, 6, 6; XXI, 159, 8; XXVI, 26, 3; XXVII, 194, 4. 

39. See my Andrea da Barberino, 93.. 

40. Orl. XVIII, 40; ft>r. XII, 21-23; Cantari d'Aspr. IV, 31-34. 

41. Middle English romance, derived from the same French models, preserved 
the equation black or bleu = evil. See William Wistar Comfort, "The Liter- 
ary Role of the Saracens in the French Epic," Proceedings of the Modern Lan- 
guage Association 55 (1940): 650—51; Diane Speed, "The Saracens of King 
Horn," Speculum 65 (1990): 580-82; Kathleen Ann Kelly, "'Blue' Indians, 
Ethiopians, and Saracens in Middle English narrative texts," Parergon n.s. 
11.1 (1993): 35-52. 

42. TheSongofAspremont,8. 

43. See Donnelly, "Moslem Enemy," 169, n. 7- 

44. The worthy Salah al-Din receives knighthood in the late thirteenth century 
Florentine Novellino, 3d ed., I Classici della BUR (Milan, 1989), Story 51. 

45. Comfort, "The Character Types in the Old French Chansons de Geste," 
Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 21, n.s. 14 (1906): 417- 

Chapter Ten 

"New Barbarian' or 

Worthy Adversary? 

Humanist Constructs 

of the Ottoman Turks 

in Fifteenth- Century 


N ancy Bis ah a 

"I fear lest the times of the Vandals and the Goths return." 1 

— Poegio Bracciolini 

Such was the Florentine humanist's reaction to news that Constantino- 
ple, the seat of the Byzantine Empire, had fallen to the Ottoman Turks 
in 1453. The loss of Byzantium meant many different things to hu- 
manists. It represented the end of a great and glorious empire, a major blow 
to Christendom, and the loss of a rich heritage of art, architecture, and 
scholarship. Many humanists equated the siege to the fifth-century sack of 
Rome. The fall of Constantinople also stands as the turning point that awak- 
ened Europeans to the threat the Turks posed to their security. 2 By mid- 
1453, the Ottomans not only controlled Constantinople, but also much of 
Asia Minor, and large portions of the Balkans. Calls for crusade were issued 


by the papacy and secular powers alike. A large number of humanists sup- 
ported efforts toward crusade, often pointing to the example of early drives 
to the Holy Land, like the First Crusade. Still, the rhetoric employed by hu- 
manists in discussing crusade, and particularly the Turks, was generally not 
medieval in inspiration, but rather classical. 3 A new secular vision of the 
Turks and crusade began to compete with, and, in some places, replace the 
rhetoric of holy war and "enemies of the faith." 

Humanist texts on crusade and the Turks survive in large numbers. The 
overwhelming majority of these works come from fifteenth-century Italy; 
they include letters and orations to princes and prelates calling for crusade, 
histories of the Turks and the crusades, ethnographic and religious studies of 
the Turks, laments on areas lost to the Turks, and even tracts on converting 
the Turks to Christianity. Until recently, though, this large corpus of hu- 
manist literature has failed to attract significant scholarly attention or study. 5 

Some major misperceptions have often prevented scholars from directing 
their attention to these texts. The most significant of these is the belief that 
humanist calls for crusade fell on deaf ears. While no major crusade was 
launched against the Turks in the fifteenth century, the papacy and a num- 
ber of states made smaller scale efforts to help fund or mobilize crusades. 
Every pope from Eugenius IV (1431-47) to Leo X (1512-21) attempted to 
promote the cause of crusade. At certain times, Italian states such as Florence 
and Venice actively participated in crusade activities. And, of course, the 
Hungarians and the Balkan peoples vigorously battled the Turks until their 
countries were completely overcome. As demonstrated by Norman Housley, 
crusade still enjoyed prominence as a cultural icon, a religious concept, and 
a political concern in the fifteenth century; it was not until the sixteenth 
century and the Protestant Reformation that the crusade ideal began to 
wane. 7 Just how influential humanists were in inspiring pro-crusade atti- 
tudes and efforts is difficult, if not impossible, to gauge. But, given the 
strength of the crusade ideal and fear of the Turks in fifteenth-century Eu- 
rope, we can be sure that humanists were discussing and publicizing a timely 
issue that drew a wide readership. 8 In no way were humanists' concerns 
about the Turks and calls for crusade falling on deaf ears. 

Another perception that has inhibited the study of humanist texts on the 
Turks and crusade is the belief that humanists lacked sincerity and regarded 
crusade as nothing more than "a golden opportunity for rhetorical exer- 
cises." 9 The problem with this theory is that it fails to confront so much ev- 
idence to the contrary. Several prominent humanists devoted significant 
portions of their careers to the crusade cause, and a number of humanists re- 
flect their concerns about the Turkish advance in personal letters. 10 As Hous- 
ley has recently argued, "a polished Latin prose style and genuine enthusiasm 
were not mutually exclusive attributes." 11 

"new barbarian" or worthy adversary? 187 

Although the effectiveness of humanist calls for crusade and the sin- 
cerity behind them are interesting and worthwhile questions, they ob- 
scure a much more crucial historical problem that needs to be unfolded 
and explicated. The rhetoric in humanist texts on crusade and the Turks 
is rich with images of civilization against barbarism and West against 
East — concepts that Edward Said examines in his analysis of "Orientalist" 
scholars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, who studied and 
wrote on the Near East and its inhabitants. 12 Their Orient was a "textual 
universe" — something to be studied and interpreted, but never under- 
stood on its own terms. 13 Most of these attempts to interpret and repre- 
sent the Orient resulted in artificial and distorted depictions of Islam and 
the East as inferior to Europe and the West in practically every way. 

Fifteenth-century humanists approached the Turks in much the same 
way; they crafted a misguided yet highly intellectual vision of the Muslim 
world as culturally inferior to European civilization. Said, however, sees the 
experiences of imperialism and colonialism as essential factors in shaping a 
body of rhetoric, or "discourse," on the Muslim East; knowledge and power, 
he argues, are inextricable in this regard. 15 In other words, European politi- 
cal and economic hegemony were preconditions of Orientalist discursive 
constructions. Said's formula, while useful in many ways, can also be re- 
stricting. I will argue that imperialism need not accompany the creation of 
an intellectual discourse on the Muslim East: centuries before European im- 
perialism in the East, humanists were fashioning a scholarly discourse of 
their own that influenced modern Western views of Muslim culture. 

Renaissance humanists were not writing in a vacuum; they must be seen 
as representing concerns and attitudes of their time. In turn, humanists must 
also be regarded as instrumental in shaping Western perceptions of Islamic 
peoples in general, and the Turks in particular. Humanist rhetoric represents 
a formative moment in the history of Western attitudes, in that it brought 
about the first major challenge to medieval perceptions of the Turks and 
Islam, which were generally religious in tone, and marked a shift toward 
modern, secular attitudes and constructs. As such, humanist discourse sig- 
nificantly shaped the way modern westerners imagined and discussed the 
Muslim East. This humanist discourse is similar to Said's Orientalist dis- 
course in that it involves a group of intellectuals who were at once sharing 
in and creating learned, political, and to an extent, popular, images of the 
Other. Although Renaissance Europeans had not yet imposed physical 
power upon the Near East, humanists were beginning to assert a sense of Eu- 
ropean intellectual power and authority over Muslim societies. 

Central to the ways in which humanists challenged medieval perceptions 
of the Turks and refigured them in more secular and modern terms was the 
preoccupation with classical motifs. Humanists revived classical rhetoric and 


employed it in the wholly new context of the Tutkish thteat and crusade. 
With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, humanists compared the Turks to 
the rampaging Goths, Vandals, and Lombards who were blamed for the de- 
struction of ancient Rome. But the application of classical examples to the 
Turks and crusade did not emerge overnight in 1453; it began a century ear- 
lier with Petrarch. Arguably the first humanist, Petrarch may have been the 
first thinker to address the topics of crusade and the Muslims — in this case, 
the Mamlukes — in classical terms. He does this most strikingly in book IX 
of De vita solitaria (begun in 1346). Seeking a role model for crusaders, he 
chooses not Godfrey or St. Louis or even Charlemagne, but the great pagan 
general, Julius Caesar: 

. . . if Julius Caesar should come back from the lower regions, bringing with 
him his former spirit and power, and if, living in Rome, that is, his own coun- 
try, he should acknowledge the name of Christ as he doubtless would, do you 
think he would any longer suffer the Egyptian thief ... to possess not alone 
Jerusalem and Judea and Syria but even Egypt and Alexandria . . . ? 

Petrarch's message is that Christians of true valor and courage should not 
suffer the Holy Land, the Christian patrimony, to be overrun by Muslim 
"thieves." Although Caesar was a pagan, and his morals were questionable to 
Christians (i.e., his affair with Cleopatra), Petrarch can find no better exam- 
ple for his contemporaries: "I admire his force and energy and declare it nec- 
essary to our own time." 17 

Still, the hesitancy in Petrarch's words is palpable. Petrarch takes pains to 
attach an aura of Christianity to Caesar, and otherwise to defend his decision 
to invoke him as a paragon for crusaders. He does this because the use of clas- 
sical and pagan figures in crusading discourse was still unorthodox and novel; 
it may even be seen as a challenge to the Christian message of crusade. Pe- 
trarch was quite conscious of the novelty of his approach, hence his hesitancy. 
But it was this new classical approach to crusade rhetoric that made the topic 
more interesting and approachable to later humanists. Petrarch's example of 
equating ancient heroes and victories with crusade would be taken up by sub- 
sequent humanists with greater enthusiasm and less ambivalence. 18 

Another example of Petrarch's use of classical motifs is found in his Can- 
zone XXVIII, "O aspettata in ciel beata e bella," a crusade poem written on 
the occasion of Philip VI's decision to join an expedition to the East in 1333. 19 
Franco Cardini sees the poem as an illustration of the conflict of civility and 
barbarism, not so much between Christianity and Islam as between Europe 
and Asia in the Herodotean sense. 20 "Oriente" and "occidente" appear in the 
poem on a number of occasions, by which Petrarch constructs an image of "us 
versus them." Petrarch asserts the superiority of Europeans to the "backward" 

"new barbarian" or worthy adversary? 189 

Muslims in a verse that contrasts the Northern European warrior spirit of the 
people who live in a land "that always lies in ice and frozen in the snows, all 
distant from the path of the sun" to the softness of the Muslim peoples: 
"Turks, Arabs, and Chaldeans ... a naked, cowardly, and lazy people who 
never grasp the steel but entrust all their blows to the wind." 21 Here, Petrarch 
has reduced formidable Muslim empires to an image of disorganized and un- 
civilized hunters and gatherers who rely on archery because they lack the skill 
and courage to fight in hand to hand combat. Petrarch describes the Arab peo- 
ples as the same wild Saracens the Romans encountered a millennium earlier, 
not the advanced civilization of vast trade networks, great armies, large cities, 
and extensive learning. 

Although Petrarch's attempts to incorporate classical rhetoric and ideas 
into discussions of crusade and the Muslim peoples were somewhat tenta- 
tive, an important precedent was set. Classical concepts and crusade were 
shown to be compatible. Roman heroes, beloved by humanists, could be 
held up as examples for Christian warriors. More significantly, the rhetoric 
used to describe the Muslim peoples had expanded beyond the confines of 
religious terms into more secular terms. Muslims became metaphors for the 
dangerous and foreign Asia so reviled by ancient Greeks; they came to rep- 
resent barbarism itself. Petrarch in turn defined the Christian West as the 
bastion of civilization, manly courage and decency. Some of these ideas may 
have appeared in some form in medieval crusade rhetoric, but Petrarch was 
the first scholar to fashion a complete image of West versus East and civi- 
lization against barbarism — all through the use of the classics. 

The Florentine humanist and chancellor Leonardo Bruni also saw the 
Muslims, now the Turks who had become the dominant military threat to 
Christendom, as uncivilized barbarians. He equated the Turks to the bar- 
barian peoples of ancient Roman history in a letter dated 1440—44 to an 
anonymous recipient, probably Sicco Polenton. 22 The letter is an answer to 
the correspondent's questions regarding Livy's history of Rome. One ques- 
tion that especially occupies Bruni is how many books in Livy's history were 
lost. Bruni replies that although some 30 books survive, Livy had written 
over 100. The loss of these books is attributed to the occupation of Italy by 
the Goths and the Lombards: 

To come to your question, assuredly, the cause of the loss, I imagine, is Italy's 
former affliction by the Goths and the Lombards who oppressed our people 
with a long invasion and such calamity that they wholly forgot books and 

During this long servitude — over 364 years, by Bruni's reckoning — the 
Goths and Lombards destroyed and burned many cities. Studies, which were 


in a near desperate state, and books almost perished entirely during this 
time. Here, Bruni echoes Petrarch's vision of the "dark ages," a perception 
of the Middle Ages that would survive well into our own century. 25 But for 
Bruni the "dark ages" are even darker, since the beginning of this period wit- 
nessed not only the loss of Rome's glory — which Petrarch especially 
laments — but also the loss of so much of its learning. In 1401 Bruni com- 
plained that "it would certainly take all day to name those [ancient texts] of 
which our age has been deprived," citing the specific examples of Varro, 
Livy, Sallust, Pliny, and Cicero, but at this time he blamed no particular 
group for these losses. By 1441 Bruni was ready to assign guilt for these 
losses to the Goths and Lombards as a result of his work on Procopius's ac- 
count of the Italian war against the Goths, which he adapted from Greek 
into Latin. His familiarity with this source undoubtedly helped him become 
more acquainted with the Goths than most of his compatriots. 27 

This image of the Goths and Lombards destroying learned culture, in- 
triguing in and of itself, takes on yet another facet as Bruni compares ancient 
Rome and its barbaric adversaries to contemporary Greece and its new style 
barbarians — the Turks: 

As it was to a certain degree in Italy then, so it is now in Greece, occupied by 
the Turks. For the Greek nation is now so afflicted that, among those who 
were once teachers and leaders of learning, now there are hardly to be found 
any who have even a rudimentary knowledge of letters. 28 

A decade before the fall of Constantinople, Bruni accuses the Turks of de- 
stroying cities and, in the process, the learning and books they found there. 
We can develop some perspective on his fears if we consider the number of 
ancient texts that were being rediscovered in the early fifteenth century by 
manuscript hunters such as Poggio and Aurispa. Important ancient texts 
that had been lost for centuries to the West were being recovered and 
brought back into circulation for the first time since late antiquity. If the 
original loss of these texts was blamed on the "old barbarians," what might 
the "new barbarians" do to the treasures of learning if their progress re- 
mained unchecked? 

This notion of the Turks as threats to learning and high culture became 
widespread a decade later with the fall of Constantinople in 1453. 29 When 
reports of the siege hit Europe, humanists excoriated the Turks for their de- 
struction of great works of art, especially religious art and architecture. 30 But 
even more interesting than the humanists' laments over lost art and archi- 
tecture is their grief over reports of lost books. According to Lauro Quirini, 
a Venetian humanist living in Crete, more than 120,000 volumes were de- 
stroyed by the Turks. Quirini attributes this report to Isidore of Kiev, who 

"new barbarian" or worthy adversary? 191 

was present at the siege and spent some time in Crete shortly thereafter. 31 
Other sources for the siege such as Kritovoulos and Doukas agree that a great 
number of books that could not be ransomed were burned, thrown away, or 
ripped apart in order to sell their expensive bindings. Libraries were de- 
stroyed and countless books were loaded into carts and sold for a pittance. 32 

Humanists were horrified to hear of the loss of so many important books. 
Quirini saw it as the eradication of a great civilization's achievements: "As a 
consequence the language and literature of the Greeks, invented, augmented 
and perfected over so long a period with such labor and industry will cer- 
tainly perish." 33 Two notions seem to be at work here. First, Constantinople, 
more than any other Greek outpost, had preserved the Greek language and 
literature as a living language and culture. Second, the loss of so many books 
in Constantinople would ensure that even the heritage of Greece would van- 
ish. Quirini takes this concept and turns it against the Turks with a slander- 
ous indictment of their way of life. He calls the Turks "a barbaric, 
uncultivated race, without established customs, or laws, living a careless, va- 
grant, arbitrary life . . . Quirini has no hope that a cultural revival can take 
place in Constantinople so long as this "race of barbarians" rules over it. 

Quirini presents an image of the Turks as inimical to high culture and 
learning. They can neither appreciate nor support the learning and arts of 
Byzantium, and because they do not understand these achievements, they 
eradicate them. This notion is further articulated by Aeneas Silvius Piccolo- 
mini, humanist, diplomat, and, from 1458 to 64, Pope Pius II. Aeneas wrote 
more and worked harder for crusade than any humanist. He dedicated his 
pontificate to organizing a crusade and died while trying personally to lead 
one. Deeply affected by the fall of Constantinople, he wrote several letters 
mourning the death of Greek culture and the return of barbarism. In a let- 
ter to Nicholas of Cusa he argues that Constantinople was unique among 
Greek cities in that it thrived continuously from ancient times while other 
ancient cities crumbled. In all that time, when the city came into enemy 
hands, basilicas were never destroyed, nor were libraries burnt or monaster- 
ies despoiled by enemies of the Christian name. 35 The attack by the Turks 
on the fruits of high culture — libraries and highly decorated churches — is 
unprecedented, according to Aeneas. Even among the dreaded Persians such 
destruction of the arts was unthinkable: 

Xerxes and Darius, who once afflicted Greece with great disasters, waged war 
on men, not letters. However much the Romans reduced the Greeks to their 
power, they not only did not reject Greek letters, but they are reputed to have 
embraced and venerated them so much that a man was consequently consid- 
ered to be very learned when he seemed to be thoroughly practiced in Greek 
speech. 36 

I 9 2 


Aeneas then hammers home the point by adding, "Now under Turkish rule, 
the opposite will come to pass, for [they are] savage men, hostile to good 
manners and to good literature." 37 Aeneas wonders what manner of men 
now possess the home of Greek learning: "they are steeped in luxury, study 
little, and are overcome by laziness. Into whose hands has Greek eloquence 
fallen, I do not know; who of sound mind does not lament it?" 38 Like 
Quirini, Aeneas sees the fall of Constantinople as the end of Greek learning. 

Given the short time and great distance between the composition of 
Quirini's and Aeneas's letter (15 July, Candia, Crete and 12 August, Graz, 
Austria, respectively), it is unlikely that Aeneas could have seen or heard of 
Quirini's letter before he wrote his own. At first glance it seems odd that they 
would both arrive at the same conclusion regarding the Turks, based on the 
report of the lost books. Perhaps, though, this was a natural conclusion for 
humanists to reach. Indeed, a decade before this event Bruni formulated the 
same hypothesis. Old books and manuscripts were an invaluable resource to 
humanists, especially rare texts such as ancient Greek works. Aeneas 
lamented the loss of so many texts "not yet known to the West," calling the 
fall of Constantinople a "second death for Homer, Pindar, Menander" 
among others. 39 In truth, the city fell when Europeans were only beginning 
to avail themselves of its rich textual resources. 

From only three days of plunder and careless destruction of books that 
probably meant nothing to the soldiers, the Turks earned a reputation 
among Western scholars as the worst threat to high culture and learning 
imaginable. As Aeneas says in his extraordinary letter, they made war on lit- 
erature. Interestingly enough, it was not only scholars who heard and wrote 
about these deeds; even popular writers described the loss of learning and 
books in vernacular popular laments. 

Of course, humanists did not perceive the destruction of books and 
works of art to be the only act of barbarity committed by the Turks at 
Constantinople. Reports of unrestrained slaughter and rape also found 
their way west. Some sources claimed that all inhabitants above age six 
were put to the sword. Such reports were vastly exaggerated. Most of the 
population, it seems, was taken into captivity where they were held for 
ransom or enslaved. Reports of rape are harder to gauge. Westerners, at 
any rate, readily accepted these rumors and humanists did not miss the op- 
portunity to tell lurid tales of rapes on the high altar of Hagia Sophia in 
their accounts and letters. All things considered, the Turks probably be- 
haved no worse than most captors of their time, Christian or Muslim. 
What matters to our discussion is that humanists, like most westerners, 
believed even the most sensationalized reports of violence and savagery 
that came their way. Niccolo Tignosi, for example, made a pun on the 
name of the Turks by saying "they are not teucri [Turks] but rather truces 

"new barbarian" or worthy adversary? 193 

[butchers]." The stereotypes of the "cruel Turk" and the "lustful Turk" 
were already forming in European imaginations. 

After the events of 1453, most humanists came to call the Turks "bar- 
barians," and many saw them as a threat to high culture. As a result, such 
discourse about the Turks as inimical to learning and the arts became more 
and more common. Already in 1454 Donato Acciaiuoli, Florentine human- 
ist and statesman, used rhetoric similar to that found in Aeneas's celebrated 
letter. Writing to John Argyropoulos, a Greek refugee and eminent scholar 
who escaped Constantinople during the siege, he invites him to live in Flo- 
rence "where no barbarians or insolent men live, but rather civilized men . . . 
of good morals." Only in a setting like this did humanists believe scholar- 
ship could thrive. 

Decades later, Florentine humanist Marsilio Ficino would use the same 
imagery of the Turks as enemies of learning. In August of 1480, Ficino wrote 
a letter entitled "An exhortation to war against the barbarians" to King 
Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, seeking his aid against Ottoman forces that 
had taken the Apulian city of Otranto. Rather than discuss the actions of 
Turkish troops at Otranto, Ficino chooses to dwell on the role the Turks 
were believed to have played in the decline of Greek scholarship: 

In former times all these people [Greek philosophers, poets, orators, histori- 
cal writers] sought nothing other than true glory and light with the highest 
zeal. At length, after many generations of light, they have fallen down into 
darkness under the ferocious Turks. Alas what pain! Stars, I say, have fallen 
into darkness under savage beasts. Alas, the celestial lights of liberal teaching 
and arts have for a long time lain in limbo, or, rather, in a place far more 
darkly covered than limbo. 50 

This appeal may seem rather strange at first, but Matthias was renowned as 
a patron of the arts and learning. 51 Ficino's appeal to Matthias to battle the 
Turks "who trample with dirty feet on the disciplines of all laws and liberal 
arts . . . and on Holy Religion" 52 establishes Matthias as a protector of civi- 
lization and high culture against ignorant beasts. Ficino's plea may very well 
have hit its mark. In 1481 Otranto was recovered with the help of Matthias's 
troops under the command of Blaise Magyar. 53 

From Bruni's time on, fifteenth-century humanists tended to view and 
describe the Turks in classical terms as "new barbarians." 5 So common did 
the term become in the years after the fall of Constantinople that "barbar- 
ian" became a cognomen for "Turk." The Turks had been refigured as the 
latest and most dangerous of the barbarian hordes to menace European se- 
curity since late antiquity. 55 Despite the achievements of the Ottoman mil- 
itary, the prestige of the sultan's court, and the efficiency of the Ottoman 

: 94 


Empire, humanists chose to paint the Turks as an uncivilized, arbitrary race 
of nomads. More specifically, the Turks' destruction of books, and the dias- 
pora of Greek scholars, earned the Turks the label of enemies of learning and 
high culture. 

Since a people's origins were widely held to dictate their destiny, some 
humanists attempted to prove that the Turks were descended from "bar- 
barian stock," namely the ancient Scythians. In his Cosmographia 
(1458—60) Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini draws the connection between the 
Turks and Scythians, describing the Scythians as "a fierce and ignominious 
people, fornicators, engaging in all manner of lewdness and frequenters of 
brothels, who ate detestable things: the flesh of mares, wolves, vultures, and 
what is even more horrifying, aborted human fetuses." Aeneas's emphasis 
on the unusual diet attributed to the Scythians echoes a common trope of 
ancient historiography that automatically described nomads as "eaters of 
flesh" and "drinkers of milk," unlike civilized agrarian folk who consumed 
bread and wine. 57 Fanciful descriptions of the flesh eaten by the Scythians 
and their wild sexual habits helped to complete the image of the Turks' er- 
satz ancestors as perverse and immoral, as well as backward. 

It should be noted that humanist interest in the origins of the Turks had 
a more positive effect in its impact on historiographical approaches to the 
Turks. Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini and Francesco Filelfo both commissioned 
Greek scholars to write histories of the Turks so that they might learn more 
about them. 58 Aeneas and Filelfo probably mined these works for polemical 
material, but their early efforts in historiography induced later humanists to 
find better sources so as to study the Turks more closely and to write better 
histories. Humanist histories published in the sixteenth century by Andrea 
Cambini and Francesco Sansovino demonstrate a real interest and even re- 
spect for the powerful Turks, regardless of their perceived origins. 59 

From the texts we have examined thus far, humanists would appear to 
have employed classical rhetoric and history only to degrade the Turks by 
describing them as savage barbarians who were hostile to high culture. 
While this is true for the majority of humanists, on some occasions a more 
neutral or even positive picture of the Turks resulted from the application 
of classical motifs. Coluccio Salutati, Florentine chancellor from 1375 to 
1406, expressed his admiration for the Turks on one important occasion. 
In a letter of 1397, Salutati discusses the threat the Turks posed to Chris- 
tendom, rendered disunited and vulnerable by the papal schism. While 
Europeans are fighting amongst themselves, he argues, the unified Turks are 
expanding their empire with their formidable military machine. He de- 
scribes and praises at length the austerity and rigor of Turkish military life, 
and, what is more shocking, he even praises the devshirme, or "boy trib- 
ute." By this system, the Ottomans periodically required subject Christ- 

"new barbarian" or worthy adversary? 195 

ian populations to supply the atmy with boys of a certain age for the janis- 
sary military corps; they were reared in the military and in the faith of 
Islam. Few of Salutati's Christian contemporaries shared his enthusiasm 
for this system. 

Salutati's encomium of the Turks takes another extraordinary turn when he 
compares them to the ancient Romans: "believe me, when I observe the cus- 
toms, life and institutions of this race of men, I remember the religious prac- 
tice and customs of the mighty Romans." Coming from a humanist such as 
Salutati, who held the ancient Romans up as an example for his own society, 
this statement is truly remarkable. Salutati could easily have depicted the Turks 
as savages or monsters in order to frighten Christians into healing the schism, 
but instead he chose to exalt them in a fashion resembling Tacitus's treatment 
of the Germanic peoples. Salutati saw the Turks as a simple, but noble warrior 
society; they were far from barbaric in his estimation. If anything, it was their 
lack of cultural refinement and freedom from decadence that made the Turks 
so virtuous a people. 

Almost a century later, another Italian humanist, Giovanni Mario Filelfo, 
wrote an epic poem praising the Turks, and especially their leader, Sultan 
Mehmed II. This poem, entitled Amyris, was written between 1471 and 
1476 for a merchant from Ancona, Othman Lillo Ferducci. Ferducci had 
family connections to the Ottoman rulers and asked Filelfo to write a work 
exalting the sultan in order to obtain his favor. The poem describes 
Mehmed's life from his youth, chronicling his conquests and achievements, 
with the addition of some unusual classical references. The use of classical 
themes to praise an individual was common in humanist compositions, but 
Filelfo's choice of material was quite striking. Drawing on a medieval legend 
that seemed to place the Turks among the descendants of the defeated Tro- 
jans, Filelfo described Mehmed as a descendant of Priam, and his people as 
the rightful heirs to Phrygia (Asia Minor), the land stolen from them by the 
treacherous Greeks. 

In Book I of the Amyris, the Roman goddess of war, Bellona, meets the 
young Mehmed and offers him a future of glory as a warrior. In order to 
persuade him, Bellona describes the injustices done to Mehmed's ancestors 
(tui parentes) by the Greeks in the Trojan War, such as enslavement of the 
people and usurpation of their homeland. All this was done for a lascivious 
woman (pro muliere . . . lasciva) like Helen. Bellona goes on to assert the 
Turks' birthright to ancient Troy: 

Who does not know by now that your ancestors are of Phrygian stock? . . . 
Othman 9 was begotten from this race, derived from Priam's stock. You are 
the descendant of Priam, and the distinctions of once unconquerable blood- 
line which were lost by fraud, accompany you. 70 


Filelfo's rhetoric of the Trojan-Greek vendetta culminates in Mehmed's tri- 
umphal entrance into Constantinople when he has the sultan declare: "You 
[Thracians] were once Greek subjects; will now bear the rule of the ancient 
Phrygians, under a new king with a new law." 71 

Besides providing the Turks with a distinguished bloodline and claim to 
Asia Minor and Greece, the Trojan legend adds a veneer of nobility to the 
Turks' image. All of these ideas represent a striking departure from most hu- 
manist thought regarding the Turks, or the barbari as they were generally 
called. Filelfo's pro-Ottoman sentiments in the Amyris, however, are ques- 
tionable. His poem is blatantly anti-Greek as well as pro-Turk, but Filelfo 
himself was part Greek, and the son of Francesco Filelfo, who tended to den- 
igrate the Turks. Even more importantly, Giovanni made some additions to 
this poem and later rededicated it as a crusade exhortation to Galeazzo Maria 
Sforza, duke of Milan. 72 In truth, Filelfo may not have relished the idea of 
the destruction of the Greek nation or believed Mehmed to be the best and 
noblest of all rulers, but this does not preclude a certain admiration for this 
bold new empire and its vigorous and brilliant young ruler. 

Even Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini was capable of expressing admiration for 
the Turks on rare occasions. During his pontificate, Aeneas wrote a most 
unusual epistle to Mehmed II (1461), ostensibly offering to legitimate the 
sultan's claims to Christian areas in exchange for Mehmed's conversion to 
Christianity. Scholars have widely debated the motives behind this pacifistic 
letter. Many take it at face value as a sincere attempt to bring peace to East- 
ern Europe and the Mediterranean and to unify Christendom. 73 Aeneas's let- 
ter, however, was never sent to the sultan; instead it was widely circulated in 
Europe. This fact, when placed in the context of Aeneas's hostility toward 
the Turks in every other composition he wrote concerning them, leads other 
scholars to believe that Aeneas never meant to send the letter to Mehmed. 
Rather, his intended audience from the start were Christian princes who 
might be shamed or frightened into crusade in order to prevent Mehmed 
from gaining even more power. Even Aeneas's tone in the letter seems to 
indicate that he was not trying to reach the sultan. In general, he is gracious 
and generous, but a closer look reveals a condescending and antagonistic at- 
titude when discussing intellectual and religious matters, especially when de- 
scribing Islam and Muslim culture. All things considered, it seems unlikely 
that Aeneas had given up hope for a crusade when he wrote this letter. 

Aeneas's use of classical motifs in this letter offers a surprising contrast to 
other works. Rather than invoking classical rhetoric and history to attack the 
Turks, he uses classical themes to draw favorable parallels to the Turks and their 
leader. A dramatic example appears in Book 3 when Aeneas compares Mehmed 
II to none other than the Emperor Constantine. Aeneas names several exam- 
ples of pagan rulers who risked everything to follow Christ. He goes on to say: 

"new barbarian" or worthy adversary? 197 

But why do we delay and not mention the greatest example of all? The Em- 
peror and Monarch, Constantine himself, opened the way which you and all 
like you could have entered without delay. 75 

Although Constantine anticipated opposition from the Senate and the peo- 
ple, and feared that supporting Christianity would lead to his downfall, he 
placed his hope in God. As a result, Aeneas argues, he prospered more than 
ever and came to be considered "the greatest and highest of all the Caesars." 

By offering the example of Constantine to Mehmed, Aeneas intimates 
that such glory is within Mehmed's reach, should he only convert. Just as 
Constantine earned a place of glory in Greek and Latin letters, so will 
Mehmed's "praises . . . ring in Greek, Roman and barbarian literature. No 
mortal will surpass [him] in power and glory." 77 Not only does Aeneas praise 
Mehmed in classical terms, but he also praises the Turks by exalting their 
supposed Scythian origins. The Scythians were, he claims in this letter, "a so- 
ciety of brave men," who were "bold and great" and possessed a number of 
"many renowned warriors who held Asia in tribute for many centuries and 
who pushed the Egyptians beyond the swamps." 78 This description is a com- 
plete reversal of Aeneas's attitude toward the Scythians in the Cosmographia 
where he depicted them as immoral savages. 79 

What we can learn from Aeneas's inconsistency regarding the Turks is that 
figuring them through the classical lens was often a source of tension for hu- 
manists, even for so ardent a polemicist as Aeneas. On the one hand, the Turks 
were seen as barbaric enemies of civilization and the faith; on the other hand 
they had a fantastic military machine and an enormous empire. They could 
not help but provoke respect from humanists now and then. Whatever result 
Aeneas hoped to achieve with his letter to Mehmed II, he found a way to 
frame the Turks in a flattering manner by using classical comparisons, just as 
he had denigrated them by using similar sources in his other works. More than 
anything, Aeneas's letter and Giovanni Mario Filelfo's Amyris should prove to 
us the malleability of classical texts, history, and concepts as they were applied 
to the Turks. Most humanists employed the classics in order to vilify the Turks, 
but, as we have seen with Salutati, Filelfo, and Aeneas, this was not always the 
case. On occasion, the Turks were depicted by humanists as a virtuous society 
of brave warriors, worthy of comparison to ancient Romans and Trojans. 

Given humanism's foundation in the study of Greek and Roman texts, hu- 
manists naturally tried to apply classical rhetoric, ideas and history to any sub- 
ject they treated, even crusade and the Turks — topics that had once seemed to 
be integrally connected with the language of religion or chivalry. Humanists felt 
most comfortable addressing the topics of the Turks and crusade in classical 
terms. As a result, their work was innovative and compelling. To Bruni and Fi- 
cino, the Turks were replicas of the ancient barbarians — nomadic, destructive 


hordes upon great cities only to destroy them and their culture. To Salutati, the 
Turks embodied the austerity, valor, and military genius of the ancient Romans 
better than contemporary Europeans. This positive reaction to the Turks was 
repeated by Niccolb Machiavelli in 1513. In The Prince, Machiavelli expressed 
admiration for the organization of the Turkish state and military, without get- 
ting bogged down in religious rhetoric and concerns, thereby proving how easy 
and acceptable it had become for scholars and politicians to frame the Turks 
within a secular context by the early sixteenth century. 80 

Humanist classical interpretations of the Turks survive today in a num- 
ber of ways. On the one hand, fifteenth-century Italian humanists employed 
classical rhetoric to polemicize and marginalize the Turkish Other. As in the 
phenomenon of Said's "Orientalism," the Turks and their culture were ob- 
jectified. Humanists used the Turks to define themselves and to create a vi- 
sion of European virtue and enlightenment in contrast to the supposed 
wickedness and dark barbarity of their adversaries. Some of these humanist 
ideas played a role in forming negative cultural stereotypes of the Turks — 
images that have survived into the modern era. 81 Even the Muslim commu- 
nity at large is still, at times, depicted by Western writers as backward and 
uncultured — a remnant of ideas formulated by Renaissance humanists. 82 

On the other hand, some humanists used classical themes to praise and 
glorify the Turks. By removing the obstacle of Christian militancy, human- 
ists like Salutati, Filelfo, and to a lesser extent Aeneas, were able to relativize 
the achievements of the Turks. Instead of dismissing the Turks as the infidel, 
they were shown to be worthy and admirable adversaries; their religion was 
of less importance. 83 In their unity and strength, the Turks could be seen as 
an example to the quarrelsome and divided peoples of Europe. 

For the first time, a large body of scholars examined the Turks and cru- 
sade in classical terms. While humanists did not completely reject the reli- 
gious rhetoric of holy war and "enemies of the faith," this vision was 
supplemented by more secular discussions of culture and politics. When 
the Protestant Reformation challenged the validity of a holy war directed 
by the papacy, humanist constructions persevered in secular rhetoric re- 
garding the Turks and other Muslim nations. Humanists offered Euro- 
peans, particularly intellectuals and statesmen, an alternative discourse on 
the Turks, who could now be framed in cultural or political terms. The dis- 
course of East and West was also offered by humanists as a provocative ap- 
proach to Muslim and European relations and conflicts. Humanist 
perceptions of the Turks have influenced modern thought regarding Islamic 
cultures because they provided a more secular outlook. This outlook greatly 
appealed to early modern and modern Europeans who were increasingly di- 
vided on the question of religion, and increasingly influenced by secular 
humanism and rhetoric. 

"new barbarian" or worthy adversary? 199 


* Portions of this article first appeared in Nancy Bisaha, "Renaissance 
Umanists and the Ottoman Turks," (Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University, 
1997). I would like to thank John Najemy of Cornell University for his 
guidance and support throughout the writing of this article. My thanks also 
go to Carol Helstosky, Arthur Field, and my husband, David Bieler, for 
their comments and suggestions, and to Danuta Shanzer for her help on 

1 . "Vereor ne Vandalorum aut Gothorum tempora redeant . . ." Letter to 
Pietro da Noceto, 25 July, 1453, from Poggio Bracciolini: Lettere, vol. Ill, ed. 
Helene Harth (Florence, 1987), 158. English translations throughout this 
article, unless otherwise noted, are my own. 

2. The fall of Constantinople elicited the greatest response from ecclesiastical 
and lay powers as well as scholars, but earlier Christian defeats at Nicopolis 
(1396) and Varna (1444) also elicited some concern and calls for crusade. 

3. Renaissance humanism has been defined in many ways, but most scholars 
agree that it was marked by the study of classical texts, rhetoric, history, and 
concepts. It is this application of classical motifs to the Turks and crusade 
that I find to be essential in shaping the unique perspectives of Renaissance 
humanists regarding these issues. By no means, however, do I wish to deny 
the conscious use of medieval and religious rhetoric in several humanist 
texts. The medieval legacy and religious influences are discussed respectively 
in chapters 3 and 6 of my dissertation. 

4. Robert Black provides an excellent bibliography of humanist works dealing 
with crusade and the Turks in Benedetto Accolti and the Florentine Renaissance 
(Cambridge, 1985), chapter 9. 

5. Black, Benedetto Accolti, outlines this body of humanist literature, and ana- 
lyzes the work of one humanist in particular — Benedetto Accolti, chancellor 
of Florence (1458—64). James Hankins also provides a useful introduction 
to humanist writing on crusade and the Turks in "Renaissance Crusaders: 
Humanist Crusade Literature in the Age of Mehmed II" in Dumbarton Oaks 
Papers 49 (1995): 111-207. I would like to thank Professor Hankins for 
sharing the manuscript of this article with me. 

6. See Black, Benedetto Accolti, chapter 9, for an account of the Florentine Re- 
public's support for and contributions to crusade. 

7. Norman Housley, The Later Crusades (Oxford, 1992), 376^420. 

8. Housley, Later Crusades, 387, points to the large number of manuscripts of 
crusade treatises that were disseminated throughout Europe. 

9. Myron P. Gilmore, The World of 'Humanism: 1453-1517 (New York, 1952), 
21. Cf Robert Schwoebel, "Coexistence, Conversion, and the Crusade 
against the Turks," Studies in the Renaissance 12 (1965): 165, n. 4. 

10. Pius II, Benedetto Accolti, and Cardinal Bessarion are examples of human- 
ists who labored intensely for crusade. Poggio Bracciolini and Donato Ac- 
ciaiuoli are among the humanists who discuss the Turks in their letters. 

1 1 . Housley, Later Crusades, 387- 


12. Edward Said, Orientalism (New York, 1978). 

13. Said, Orientalism, 52. 

14. Said, Orientalism, 21. 

15. Said, Orientalism, 32. 

16. "Si hodie Iulius Caesar ab inferis remearet animum ilium potentiamque 
suam referens, et Rome, hoc est in patria sua vivens, ut hauddubie faceret, 
Cristi nomen agnosceret, diutius ne passurum credimus, quod egiptius 
latro . . . non dicam Ierosolimam et Iudeam et Syriam, sed ipsam Egiptum 
atque Alexandriam possideret . . ." Francesco Petrarca, De vita solitaria, ed. 
Marco Noce (Milan, 1992), 240; English tr., The Life of Solitude, ed. Jacob 
Zeitlin (Urbana, 1924), 246. 

17. "... animi vim et acrimoniam illam miror ac necessariam temporibus nos- 
tris dico." Noce, De Vita Solitaria, 240; Zeitlin, Life of Solitude, 246. 

18. Flavio Biondo, for example, comfortably uses the ancient Romans as mod- 
els for crusaders in the dedication of his Roma Triumpbans. See, Roma Tri- 
umphans, Opera Historica, (Basel, 1531), 1. 

19. See Black, Benedetto Accolti, 227; and Franco Cardini, in "La crociata mito 
politico," Studi sulla storia e sull'idea di crociata (Rome, 1983), 210; this ar- 
ticle was also published in LI pensiero politico 8 (1975): 3—32. 

20. Cardini, "La crociata mito politico," 210. 

21. "sempre in ghiaccio et in gelate nevi, tutta lontana dal camin del sole"; 
"Turchi, Arabi e Caldei . . . popolo ignudo, paventoso et lento,/ che ferro 
mai non strigne,/ ma tutt' i colpi suoi commette al vento"; Petrarch's Lyric 
Poems ed. and trans. Robert M. Durling (Cambridge, 1976), 76—77- 

22. Francesco Paolo Luiso, Studi su L'Epistolario di Leonardo Bruni, ed. Lucia 
Gualdo Rosa (Rome, 1980), 160. 

23. "Causa vero amissionis, ut ad tuum quaesitum veniamus, ilia puto, quod af- 
flicta quondam Italia Gothorum, et Longobardorum longa invasione tanta 
calamitate nostros homines oppressere, ut omnino librorum, studiorumque 
obliviscerentur." Leonardi Bruni Arretini Epistolarum Libri VLLL, ed. Laurentius 
Mehus (Florence, 1741), 193 (letter XXII of book X). 

24. "... tarn longa servitute vastatis, atque incensis pluribus urbibus, quasi des- 
peratis rebus studia, librique interiere." Leonardi Bruni Arretini Epistolarum. 

25. Theodor E. Mommsen, "Petrarch's Conception of the 'Dark Ages'" Specu- 
lum 17 (1942), 226-42. 

26. "Dialogues to Pier Paolo Vergerio," in The Three Crowns of Florence: Hu- 
manist Assessments of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, eds. and trans. David 
Thompson and Alan F. Nagel (New York, 1972), 30. 

27. The Humanism of Leonardo Bruni, eds. and trans. Gordon Griffiths, 
James Hankins, David Thompson (Binghamton, 1987), 183. Only in 
Greek accounts such as Procopius's could this period of history become 
accessible, Bruni, in Humanism of Leonardo Bruni, eds. and trans. Grif- 
fiths et al, 196, explains, since "no record had survived [of the Gothic 
War] among the Latins — only a kind of myth, and this insubstantial and 

"new barbarian" or worthy adversary? zoi 

28. "Id tale aliquid fuit tunc in Italia, quale nunc est in Graecia a Turcis occu- 
pata. Sic enim nunc afflicta est gens Graecorum, ut qui dudum magistri, et 
principes studiorum erant, vix nunc reperiantur ex eis, qui primas literas 
sciant." Leonardi Bruni Arretini Epistolarum, 193. 

29. For a discussion of Western reactions to the fall of Constantinople see Robert 
Schwoebel, The Shadoiu of the Crescent: The Renaissance Image of the Turk (New 
York, 1967), chapter 1. Steven Runciman also provides a histoiy of the siege 
and a guide to sources in The Fall of Constantinople 1453 (Cambridge, 1965). 

30. Although some areas of the city suffered extensive damage, other quarters of 
the city and their inhabitants were unscathed by the siege as they voluntar- 
ily surrendered and were given the sultan's protection; Runciman, Fall of 
Constantinople, 153. Also, after entering the city in triumph, Mehmed II or- 
dered his troops not to damage any of the buildings, religious or otherwise, 
in their pillaging; Franz Babinger, Mehmed the Conqueror and his Time 
(Princeton, 1978), 94. 

3 1 . Lauro Quirini, Letter to Nicholas V, from Testi inediti epoco noti sulla caduta 
di Costantinopoli, ed. Agostino Pertusi (Bologna, 1983), 74—75; this text 
may also be found in Pertusi's Lauro Quirini Umanista (Florence, 1977), 

32. Kritovoulos, The History of Mehmed the Conqueror, ed. Charles T. Riggs 
(Princeton, 1954), 74; Doukas, Decline and Fall of Byzantium to the Ot- 
toman Turks, ed. Harry J. Magoulias (Detroit, 1975), 240; for Isidore, see 
Kenneth Setton, The Papacy and the Levant (1205—1571), vol. 2 (Philadel- 
phia, 1978), 131, n.78. Wittek, however, argues that many of these books 
found their way West through traders. See "An Eloquent Conquest" from 
The Fall of Constantinople (London, 1955), 36. 

33. "Ergo et lingua et litteratura Graecorum tanto tempore, tanto labore, tanta 
industria inventa, aucta, perfecta peribit, heu peribit!" ed. Pertusi, Testi 
inediti, 74. 

34. "Gens barbara, gens inculta, nullis certis moribus, nullis legibus, sed fusa, 
vaga, arbitraria vivens. . . ." Quirini, ed. Pertusi, Testi inediti, 76. 

35. "Constantinopolis in manus hostium venerit . . . nunquam ilia urbe Chris- 
tiani nominis hostes potiti sunt neque basilice sanctorum destructe sunt 
neque bibliothece combuste neque despoliata penitus monasteria." Der 
Briefwechsel des Eneas Silvius Piccolomini, ed. Rudolf Wolkan, from Fontes 
rerum austriacarum, Abt. 2, Bd. 68 (Vienna, 1918), 208. 

36. "Xerxes et Darius, qui quondam magnis cladibus Greciam afflixere, bellum 
viris, non litteris intulerunt. Romani, quamvis Greciam in potestatem suam 
redegissent, non solum Grecas litteras aspernati non sunt, sed ultro amplexi 
veneratique referuntur, adeo, ut tunc quisque doctissimus haberetur, cum 
Greci sermonis videretur peritissimus esse." Der Brief vechsel des Eneas Silvius 
Piccolomini, 209. 

37. "Nunc sub Turchorum imperio secus eveniet, sevissimorum hominum, 
bonorum morum atque litterarum hostium." Der Briefwechsel des Eneas Sil- 
vius Piccolomini, 209. 


38. "... in libidinem provoluti sunt, litterarum studi parvi faciunt, incredibili 
fastu superbiunt. in quorum manus venisse Grecam eloquentiam non scio, 
quis bone mentis non doleat . . ." Der Briefwechsel des Eneas Silvius Piccolo- 
mini, 210—11. 

39. Der Briefwechsel des Eneas Silvius Piccolomini, 211. 

40. Maffeo Pisano's Lamento di Constantinopoli is one example of this type of 
popular literature. See Schwoebel, Shadow of the Crescent, 20—21. An edition 
of the Lamento appears in Pertusi's Testi inediti. 

41. Ed. Agostino Pertusi, La Caduta di Costantinopoli, vol. 2 (Rome, 1976), 
21. The details of the siege of Constantinople are difficult to assess, but it 
has been estimated that less than ten percent of the population — 4,000 
out of an estimated population of 50,000 — were killed. Housely, Later 
Crusades, 95. 

42. Doukas, a Greek source for the siege, claims that Turkish soldiers who 
stormed the city later told him that they killed so many men only because 
they had expected a far greater number of defenders and a hard fight. It was 
in their best interests to capture rather than kill, as captives could render a 
handsome profit. Decline and Fall of Byzantium, 224—25. 

43. See for instance Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini's description of mass rape of all 
segments of society as well as both sexes in his letter to Leonardo Benvogli- 
enti, ed. Pertusi, La Caduta, vol. 2, 62—64. 

44. "non teucri sunt . . . sed potius truces sunt appelandi . . ." Niccolo Tignosi, 
Expugnatio Constantinopolitana, ed. Mario Sensi, "Niccolo Tignosi da 
Foligno, l'opera e il pensiero," Annali della Facolta di Lettere e Filosofia, Uni- 
versita degli Studi di Perugia 9 (1971-72), 430. 

45. Andrew Wheatcroft, The Ottomans (London, 1993), chapters 7 and 8. 

46. Schwoebel discusses the humanist designation of the Turks as barbari in 
"Coexistence," 164. W. R. Jones has written an enlightening study entitled 
"The Image of the Barbarian in Medieval Europe," Comparative Studies in 
Society and History 13 (1971): 376^407. He explains that barbari was not 
widely used by Europeans to describe the Muslims until the fifteenth cen- 
tury when they applied it to the Ottoman Turks. (See page 392.) 

47- " . . . ut mea urbe vivere velis, in qua non barbari, non insolentes viri, sed 
humani domestici, beneque morati homines vitam ducunt." Biblioteca 
Nazionale Centrale, Firenze, MS Magliabecchiana VIII, 1390, f. 86r. 

48. Cf. Schwoebel, "Coexistence" 165, n. 5. 

49. See Babinger, Mehmed the Conqueror, 390—92. 

50. "Hi enim omnes quum olim summo studio nihil aliud, quam veram gloriam 
lucemque quaesiverint, tandem post multa lucis secula in tenebras sub sae- 
vis Turcis, proh dolor, stellae, inquam, sub truculentis feris in tenebras cor- 
ruunt. Iacent heu coelestia liberalium doctrinarum artiumque lumina 
iamdiu in lymbo: imo vero sub loco longe, quam sit lymbus obscuriore." 
Marsilio Ficino, Opera Omnia, vol. I, tome ii, ed. Luigi Firpo (Torino, 
1959), 721; English tr., The Letters of Marsilio Ficino, vol. II (Liber III) 
(London, 1978), 4. 

"new barbarian" or worthy adversary? 203 

51. For a description of Matthias and his court, see Valery Rees, "Hungary's 
Philosopher King Mattias Corvinus 1458-90," History Today 44 (March, 
1994): 18-21. 

52. "... legum omnium liberaliumque artium disciplinas, atque . . . religionem 
sanctam . . . sordissimis pedibus impie calcant." Firpo, 722; Letters, 5. 

53. Matthias also won a number of imporant victories that same year against the 
Turks in Serbia. Rees, "Hungary's Philosopher King," 19; Babinger, Mehmed 
the Conqueror, 394; The Letters ofMarsilio Ficino, 87, n. 1. 

54. The term is used and discussed by Schwoebel, Shadow of the Crescent, chap- 
ter 6. See also Black, Benedetto Accolti, chapter 9. 

55. Cardinal Bessarion, for example, equates the Turks with every barbarian na- 
tion that invaded Italy in the third of his Orationes (1471), which were dis- 
tributed to European princes as a call for crusade. See J. P. Migne, Patrologia 
Graeca (Cursus Completus), vol. 161, 651—59. 

56. "Natio truculenta et ignominiosa in cunctis stupris ac lupanaribus forni- 
caria: comedit quae caeteri abominantur, iumentorum, luporum, ac vultu- 
rum carnes, et quod magis horreas, hominum abortiva . . ." Opera quae 
extaiit omnia (Frankfurt, 1967), 307. For the views of Aeneas and others on 
Turkish history, see Agostino Pertusi, "I primi studi in occidente sull'origine 
e la potenza dei Turchi," Studi Veneziani 12 (1970): 465—552; see also 
Michael J. Heath, "Renaissance Scholars and the Origins of the Turks," Bib- 
liotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance 41 (1979): 453—71. 

57. See Brent D. Shaw, '"Eaters of Flesh, Drinkers of Milk': the Ancient 
Mediterranean Ideology of the Pastoral Nomad," Ancient Society 13/14 
(1982—83): 5—31. Thanks to Alex Schubert for this reference. 

58. See Pertusi, "I primi studi." 

59. Eric Cochrane, Historians and Historiography in the Italian Renaissance 
(Chicago, 1981), 332—33. Schwoebel, Shadow of the Crescent, also points to 
the example of Teodoro Spandugino, 209—11, 226. 

60. It should be noted here that Salutati had previously expressed more negative 
sentiments regarding the Turks. He inserted an attack on the Turks and their 
leader, Murad, in a letter to the king of Bosnia following the battle of 
Kosovo (1389). A translation of the letter is available in Thomas A. Em- 
mert's Serbian Golgotha: Kosovo, 1389 (New York, 1990). 45^7. Thanks to 
Steven Reinert for this reference. 

61. The letter was addressed to Iodoco, Margrave of Moravia, but was intended 
to be circulated at the Diet of Frankfurt. The letter apparently became well 
known. See: Berthold L. Ullman, The Humanism of Coluccio Salutati 
(Padua, 1963), 79-80; cf Black, Benedetto Accolti, 227. 

62. Salutati, Epistolario di Coluccio Salutati, ed. Francesco Novati vol. 3 (Rome, 
1896), 208-209. 

63. Ferdinand Schevill, A History of the Balkans {tepr. New York, 1991), 182-85. 

64. "credite michi: genus hoc hominum, quorum cum mores, vitam et instituta 
percipio, fortissimorum Romanorum ritum consuetudinesque recordor . . ." 
ed. Novati, Epistolario, 209. 



65. Giovanni Mario Filelfo, Amyris, ed. Aldo Manetti (Bologna, 1978), 19-20; 
see also Schwoebel, Shadow of the Crescent, 148 — 49. 

66. For a description of this legend and further reading, see Heath, "Renaissance 
Scholars." See also Terence Spencer, "Turks and Trojans in the Renaissance," 
Modern Language Review 47 (1952): 330-33. 

67- Venus also appears and offers Mehmed a life of pleasure, which he refuses in 
order to pursue the path of honor and glory in war. 

68. Ed. Manetti, Amyris, 69-70. 

69. Othman or Osman (d. 1326) was the founder of the Ottoman dynasty. 

70. "Phrygia nam gente parentes esse tuos, quis nescit adhuc? . . . Othman gente 
satus, Priamique e stirpe relatus, tu genus es Priami, teque ornamenta sequun- 
tur sanguinis invicti quondam, dein fraude remissi." ed. Manetti, Amyris, 70. 

71. "Fuistis denique subiecti Graeci, Phrygiaeque vetustae imperium sub rege 
novo cum lege feretis." ed. Manetti, Amyris, 129. 

72. Schwoebel, Shadow of the Crescent, 149. 

73. See R. W. Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 
Mass., 1962), 98—103; Franco Gaeta, "Alcune osservazioni sulfa prima 
redazione della <<lettera a Maometto»" Enea Silvio Piccolomini Papa Pio II 
(Siena, 1968), 185; and Babinger, Mehmed the Conqueror, 198—99. 

74. See Franco Cardini, "La Repubblica di Firenze e la crociata di Pio II," Riv- 
ista storica della Chiesa in Italia 33 (1979), 471; see also Schwoebel, Shadow 
of the Crescent, 66; "Coexistence," 179—80. 

75. "Sed quid moramur et non exemplum illud adducimus, quod omnium est 
maximum? Constantinus ipse imperator ac monarcha viam aperuit, quam tu 
et tui similes ingredi absque ulla cunctatione possetis." Epistle to Mohammed 
II, ed. and trans. Albert R. Baca (New York, 1990), English, 25; Latin, 130. 

76. "Magnificus et excelsus super omnes Caesares inventus . . ." ed. and trans. 
Baca, Epistle, English, 26; Latin, 131. However, not all medieval and Re- 
naissance thinkers held Constantine in such high regard. See Robert Black, 
"The Donation of Constantine: A New Source for the Concept of the Re- 
naissance?" in Language and Images of Renaissance Italy (Oxford, 1995), 

77. "Latinae et litterae graecae et barbarae celabrabunt: nemo inter mortales erit, 
qui te potentia aut gloria praecedat." ed. and trans. Baca, Epistle, English, 
26-27; Latin, 132. 

78. Ed. and trans. Baca, Epistle, 74, 180. 

79. For this description of the Scythians, Pius probably drew on Book I of 
Herodotus' Histories, which presents a favorable view of this ancient people. 
For many ancient, medieval and Renaissance historians, Herodotus was too 
sympathetic to the barbarians to be of any real use. See Arnoldo 
Momigliano, "The Place of Herodotus in the History of Historiography," in 
Studies in Historiography (London, 1966), 133, 138—39. Heath, "Renais- 
sance Scholars," describes Pius's use of a late Roman cosmographer, possibly 
a later medieval forgery, called "Aethicus," who provided more polemical 
anecdotes to use against the Scythians in the Cosmographia. 

"new barbarian" or WORTHY ADVERSARY? Z05 

80. See, for instance, Book IV of The Prince where Machiavelli discusses the 
strength and unity of the Turkish state, as opposed to the weakness of the 
French monarchy. 

81. Wheatcroft describes early modern and modern Western perceptions of the 
Turks in The Ottomans; see especially chapter 8, "The Terrible Turk." 

82. See Said's Orientalism, especially 284—328; see also his Question of Palestine 
(New York, 1980), 25- 29. 

83. Humanists, of course were not the first Europeans to admire the Muslims. 
Salah al-Din (1137/8—1193) for example gained considerable popularity in 
the West as a chivalric hero. Still, the prevailing medieval attitude toward 
Muslims such as Salah al-Din tended to be, as is often repeated in the Song 
of Roland, "If only he were a Christian. . . ." 

84. See Housley's discussion of the effect of the Protestant Reformation on the 
decline of the crusade ideal, op. cit., 379—80. 

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Chapter Eleven 

E arly Modern 

Orientalism : 

Representations of 

Islam in Sixteenth- and 

Seventeenth- Century 

Europ e 

D anicl ] . Vitkus 

The early modern image of Islam — as seen through Western eyes — is 
one that has been so radically transformed by time, distance, and 
cultural mediation that it bears little resemblance to the religion and 
the culture that it purports to describe. In fact, the representation of Islam 
in medieval and Renaissance Europe is at times almost the opposite of its al- 
leged original. Through a process of misperception and demonization, icon- 
oclasm becomes idolatry, civilization becomes barbarity, monotheism 
becomes pagan polytheism, and so on. And yet, these twisted stereotypes 
are, in a sense, "real." They are real because, for the vast majority of medieval 
and early modern Europeans, they served as the only readily available means 
for understanding (or perhaps we should say, misunderstanding) Islam. 
These representations are also "real" in the sense that any such representa- 
tion has a material and ideological impact as a historical phenomenon: it is 


a mode of perception that shapes the way people think and therefore the way 
they act. 

During the Middle Ages in Europe, a pattern of representation begins to 
emerge from various descriptions of the Islamic Other and its society, cul- 
ture, religion, et cetera. Some of these medieval representations were crude 
caricatures, such as the figure of Mahound, a pagan tyrant or idol that ap- 
pears in popular medieval drama; but there were also more sophisticated at- 
tempts to describe Islamic culture or religion and to account for its rise and 
development. Many scholars, including Norman Daniel and W. Mont- 
gomery Watt, have distinguished between the "popular" perception of Is- 
lamic culture and what has been termed the "learned" account of Islam. At 
the same time that romance tale tellers were recounting the heroic exploits 
of Christian knights and crusaders who vanquished sinister Islamic foes, 
there were those among the educated elites who were studying Islamic the- 
ology in order to stop its spread by more peaceful means. These theologians' 
treatments of Islam were often produced as part of a polemical project to 
promote Christianity and to refute Islam. Medieval scholars such as Ricoldo 
da Monte Croce, Mark of Toledo, Ramon Lull, Ramon Marti, Peter the 
Venerable, Robert of Ketton, and Hermann of Dalmata, all of them monks 
or clerics, translated, described, and denounced Islam from the perspective 
of medieval scholasticism. 1 But even their learned descriptions of Islamic re- 
ligion are often distortions or fabrications, depicting Islam as heresy or fraud 
and Muhammad as an impostor. These medieval accounts of Islam form an 
important foundation, comprising an entire tradition of polemical misrep- 
resentation, for the attitudes taken later by early modern theologians, both 
Protestant and Catholic. 

Why the persistent misrepresentation of Islam, in spite of the availability 
of more accurate information about Muslim society and theology? The an- 
swer is simple: it was the perceived threat of Islam to Christianity that pro- 
duced the denial or the radical distortion of what Islam really was. From the 
perspective of Christendom, Islam was an aggressively expanding, competing 
form of monotheism that sought to subsume and overrule the Gospel of 
Christ, just as the Christians claimed to have supplanted Judaism by "fulfill- 
ing" the Judaic law of the Old Testament. The Islamic claim to supersede a 
flawed and incomplete Christianity was an unthinkable phenomenon, and so 
it was denied in various ways, including, in both learned and popular treat- 
ments, a definition of Islam as a "pagan" misbelief akin to other forms of idol- 
atrous paganism that Western Europeans associated with the Middle East. 

The demonization of the Islamic East is a long and deeply rooted tradi- 
tion in the West — spanning the centuries, from the early medieval period to 
the end of the twentieth century. It harks back to ancient representations of 
Eastern empires and invading hordes that predate Islam, including the As- 


Syrians and the Persians of the ancient world. The classical and biblical 
stereotypes that were established in the collective consciousness of the West 
were further shaped and solidified later by the historical experience of "holy 
war" that began with the rise of Islam, continued during the period of the 
crusades, and endured in the era of Spanish Reconquista and Ottoman im- 
perialism. In Western Europe, a long history of military aggression and cul- 
tural competition (taking place primarily, but not entirely, in the 
Mediterranean basin) served as the basis for the prevailing conception of the 
Islamic "Orient" during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 

Looking back at the cultural history of Europe, we find a distorted 
image of Islam first recorded in medieval romances and chivalric "legends" 
describing armed conflict between Christian and Saracen knights. These 
texts are generally considered today to be "fictional" and "literary" forms, 
but it is important to keep in mind that the category of "literature," as it is 
popularly defined today, did not come into being until the nineteenth cen- 
tury. For premodern readers and audiences, the distinction between story 
and history, fiction and fact, legend and chronicle, was not a clear one — if 
it existed at all. What may appear to us now as an obvious fiction was once 
received knowledge. For example, romance narratives about chivalric 
Christian heroes fighting evil Saracen knights, which we might dismiss 
today as mere fairy tales, were undoubtedly received as "true stories" by 
most of their audience. Romance tales and legends, including the chansons 
de geste, late medieval romances like Alexandre du Pont's Roman de Ma- 
homet (1258) and Sir Beues of Hamtoun (ca. 1300), as well as early modern 
texts such as Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata (1581), exhibit what 
Dorothee Metlitzki has called "The assemblage of myth, legend, fact, and 
propaganda ... in the literary encounter between Christians and Sara- 
cens." 2 Metlitzki's description of these texts is an accurate assessment from 
the perspective of a modern critic, but the medieval audience would have 
been far less skeptical. Although the romances and legends featuring Is- 
lamic enemies are imaginative, nostalgic rewritings of historical events such 
as the military exploits of Carolingian Franks or twelfth-century crusaders, 
these legends, to some degree, comprise a record of the competition and 
conflict between European-Christian and Arab-Islamic culture. In any case, 
they record for us a deformed image of Islam that was received as a true one 
by many Europeans, even in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Thus, 
there existed even in the medieval and early modern periods a kind of "ori- 
entalism" that demonized the Islamic Other. 

The orientalist discourse described by Edward Said was not "born" 
with Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798 3 : it began to emerge in an era 
when the European relationship to the Orient was not yet one of colonial 
dominance — when, in fact, that relationship was one of anxiety and awe 


on the part of the Europeans. In fact, as one scholar has pointed out, "... 
the creation of the distorted image of Islam was largely a response to the cul- 
tural superiority of the Muslims, especially those of al-Andalus. 

Before the emergence of capitalism, feudal European society existed in 
what Samir Amin has termed "the peripheral form of the tributary mode:" 5 

. . . Until the Renaissance, Europe belonged to a regional tributary system 
that included Europeans and Arabs, Christians and Moslems. But the greater 
part of Europe at that time was located at the periphery of this regional sys- 
tem, whose center was situated around the eastern end of the Mediterranean 

During the Islamic conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries, and later, 
at the time of the Ottoman expansion, the Europeans were dominated by Is- 
lamic power. While the Christians of Spain, Portugal, England, and other 
nations were establishing their first permanent colonies in the New World, 
they faced the threat at home of being colonized by the Ottoman Empire. 
Thus, the power relations that were in effect in the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries are the opposite of those that operated later under Western 
colonial expansion and rule. Many of the images of Islam that were pro- 
duced by European culture in the early modern period are imaginary reso- 
lutions of real anxieties about Islamic wealth and might. The Christian 
West's inferiority complex, which originated in the trauma of the early 
Caliphate's conquests, was renewed and reinforced by the emergence of a 
new Islamic power, the Ottoman Turks, who achieved in 1453 what the 
Ummayad armies had failed to accomplish in 669 and 674 — the capture of 
Constantinople. A series of Ottoman invasions and victories followed, in- 
cluding Athens in 1459, Otranto in 1480, Rhodes in 1522, Budapest in 
1526, and in 1529 when the Turks pushed on and almost took Vienna, 
Cyprus in 1571, and Crete in 1669. 

The importance of the Turkish threat for early modern Europeans can 
hardly be underestimated. An English writer, Richard Knolles, in his History 
of the Turks (1603), refers to them as "the scourge of God and present terror 
of the world." 7 The Turkish scare, which prevailed throughout the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries, strongly affected even the English. 8 When the 
news reached England in 1565 that the Turkish siege of Malta had been 
lifted, a "form of thanksgiving" was ordered by the Archbishop of Canterbury 
to be read in all churches every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday. 9 This special 
order of service refers to "that wicked monster and damned soul Mahomet" 
and "our sworn and most deadly enemies the Turks, Infidels, and Miscre- 
ants . . . who by all tyranny and cruelty labour utterly to root out not only 
true religion, but also the very name and memory of Christ our only saviour, 


and all Christianity." 10 Five years later, Christians throughout Europe cele- 
brated and performed prayers of thanks for the victory at Lepanto, but when 
the defeat of the Turkish fleet proved to be only a temporary setback to Ot- 
toman expansion, a sense of dread returned. 

In 1574, Sir Philip Sidney and Fulke Greville traveled together as part of 
a foreign mission to Don John of Austria (who had commanded the Chris- 
tian fleet at Lepanto). During this trip, Sidney wrote to Hubert Longuet 
from Vienna on March 26: 

These civil wars which are wearing out the power of Christendom are open- 
ing the way for the Turk to get possession of Italy; and if Italy alone were in 
danger, it would be less a subject for sorrow, since it is the forge in which the 
cause of all these ills are wrought. But there is reason to fear that the flames 
will not keep themselves within its frontier, but will seize and devour the 

In the following year, in the dedication to his English translation of Curi- 
one's Sarracenicae Historiae, Thomas Newton wrote: "They [the Saracens 
and Turks] were ... at the very first very far from our clime and region, and 
therefore the less to be feared, but now they are even at our doors and ready 
to come into our houses. . . ." 12 Another English tract on the Turks, printed 
in 1597, reports that "... the terrour of their name doth even now make 
the kings and Princes of the West, with the weake and dismembred reliques 
of their kingdomes and estates, to tremble and quake through the feare of 
their victorious forces." 13 

Despite such fears about a nightmare scenario of Islamic expansion, the 
European attitude toward the Ottoman threat was not simply and univer- 
sally one of fear and loathing (as we see from Sidney's rather cheerful allu- 
sion to a possible Turkish conquest of Italy). As long as their Roman 
Catholic enemies were the ones who were suffering at the hands of the Ot- 
tomans, it was not, from the Protestant point of view, an altogether negative 
phenomenon. The Turks were often seen by the Protestants as God's scourge 
for papal pride, and some expressed a hope that the rival powers of Pope and 
Sultan would annihilate each other, leaving a power vacuum that might be 
filled by an expansion of the Protestant Reformation. This kind of wishful 
thinking became part of the apocalyptic rhetoric of radical Protestantism. 

Some historians have called the Turks "allies of the Reformation" be- 
cause the Ottoman campaigns in central Europe helped to divert the mili- 
tary energies and economic resources of the Papal-Hapsburg powers who 
wished to root out the Lutherans and other "heretics." In fact, the Turk- 
ish authorities were more tolerant of Protestantism than were many of the 
Roman Catholic princes, and Ottoman rule in the Balkans was generally 


less exploitative than that of the Roman Catholic nobles who had held 
power there before the Ottoman invasions. Thus it was that Balkan peas- 
ants in the sixteenth century used the saying, "Better the turban of the Turk 
than the tiara of the Pope." 15 It was the Ottoman threat that forced Charles 
V and his German allies to concede freedom of religious practice to 
Lutheran sectarians during the crucial period of the 1520s and 1530s. 

In 1518, Luther had been accused in the papal bull of excommunication 
of a heretical opposition to a crusade against the Turks. Luther, like many 
other preachers, both Protestant and Catholic, believed that "The Turks are 
the people of the wrath of God," come to scourge Christians for their sins. 
In his response to the Pope, however, Luther defended the principle that "to 
fight the Turks is to resist the judgment of God upon men's sins." Although 
Luther's position may well have been an objection "less to fighting against 
the Turk than to fighting under papal leadership," it implies that to fight the 
Turk is to resist the will of God. 17 Later, as the Turkish invaders drew closer 
to Germany, Luther was forced to defend his position. In a series of sermons 
and writings on the Turks and their religion, he advocated a united resistance 
against the Ottoman advance. 

Luther's attitude toward Islam must be seen in light of the Protestant cri- 
tique of papal authority, and in the context of the Protestant struggle for sur- 
vival against the Hapsburg effort to stamp out the new heresy. The 
Protestant attack on the papal theory of crusade was part of the assault on 
the Pope's prerogative and the Roman Catholic penitential system (especially 
the indulgences that were granted to crusaders). Despite this hostility to the 
notion of a holy war led by the Pope, Protestants in England, at least, did 
not abandon the principle of a just war, waged by the "common corps of 
Christendom" to defend against the predations of the Turkish infidel. 18 

Drawing upon the language of the Book of Revelation, Protestants often 
described the wars against Roman Catholic rule and religion as crusades 
against the "second Turk," the Antichrist, or the Eastern "whore of Baby- 
lon." In Table Talk, Luther is quoted as saying, 

Antichrist is at the same time the Pope and the Turk. A living creature con- 
sists of body and soul. The spirit of Antichrist is the Pope, his flesh the Turk. 
One attacks the Church physically, the other spiritually. 19 

In a 1587 sermon at Paul's Cross in London, William Gravet, a Protes- 
tant divine, made a historical claim for the link between Pope and Turk, 
claiming that "the popes supremacie and Mahumets sect began both about 
one time (as is to be seene in the histories) and that was somewhat more than 
600 yeeres after Christ . . ." and therefore "Mahumetisme may go cheeke by 


While Luther and other Protestants compared the Roman Catholic 
church and the pope to Turkish infidels, Catholic polemicists sought to tar 
Protestants with the same brush. In polemical writings, as well as official 
pronouncements, popes, princes, and Roman Catholic clergymen compared 
their religious duty to fight the Lutheran heresy with their obligation to pur- 
sue a crusade against Islam. 21 In 1526, a proposal for a "general crusade" for 
"the repelling and ruin ... of the infidels and the extirpation of the 
Lutheran sect" was included in the Treaty of Madrid signed by Charles V 
and Francis I. 22 In a 1536 anti-Protestant tract dedicated to Charles V, the 
English Cardinal Reginald Pole imagined Charles defeating the Turks in a 
crusade and then returning home, only to find that 

new turkes be rysen and sprong up amongst us at home. For what other thing 
ar the turkes than a certain secte of christians, which in tyme past have 
shrounk and gone away from the catholyke church . . . ? The orygynall and 
begynyng of the turkes relygion is all one with all other heresyes. 23 

While Protestants and Catholics called each other infidels and Turks, they 
both continued to call for a united crusade against the real Turks. Papists and 
Protestants alike saw the expansion of the Ottoman Empire and Islamic con- 
trol of Jerusalem as a consequence of God's judgment upon Christian sin- 
ners, the manifestation of a providential scheme that had shaped imperial 
history in accordance with the divine will. 

In the sixteenth century, incessant warfare between the Christian states 
of Europe and religious war in France served to intensify the exhortations 
for Christian unity and a crusade against the Turks. Melanchthon, in the 
preface to De origine imperii Turcorum (1560), declares "We behold the 
Turkish power being extended over the human race while the kings and 
other princes of Europe dissipate their strength in domestic warfare. In the 
meantime the Turks move onward." 2 In his Discours Politiques et Militaires, 
written in prison during the late 1580s, a Huguenot captain, Francis de la 
Noue, called for a general crusade to unite Catholics and Protestants in an 
effort to retake Constantinople. 25 During the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries, the call for a crusade became a rhetorical formula frequently em- 
ployed but rarely leading to large-scale military mobilization against the 
Ottomans. It was increasingly a subject for imaginative nostalgia rather 
than a concerted action. 

A typical sixteenth-century plea for such a holy war occurs in Camoens's 
Portuguese epic, Os Lusiados (first published in 1572): 

O wretched Christians, are you perchance but the dragon's teeth that Cadmus 
sowed, that you thus deal death to one another, being all sprung from a common 


womb? Do you not see the Holy Sepulchre in the possession of dogs of infidels 
who, strong in their unity, are advancing even against your native soil and cover- 
ing themselves with glory in the field? You know that with them it is both cus- 
tom and obligation ... to hold their restless forces together by waging war on 
Christian peoples; while among you the Furies never weary of sowing their hate- 
ful tares. 27 

Here, the formulaic plea for Christian unity and a crusade against Islam is, 
ironically, a call to imitate the Turks' military and moral discipline. 

In poetry, in sermons, and in religious polemic, early modern Europeans 
demanded an all-out war against the Turks, but at the same time some 
Christian monarchs were openly allied to the forces of Islam. During the six- 
teenth century, the French monarchy began a long period of friendly rela- 
tions with the Grande Porte, and after the Venetians they were the next to 
be granted commercial capitulations by the Ottoman sultan. 28 

In Protestant England, Elizabeth I was to pursue a policy of commercial 
and military alliance with the Ottoman sultanate, especially during the pe- 
riod of open hostility to Spain. In 1585 her powerful councilor Walshing- 
ham instructed William Harborne, the English ambassador to the Sultan, to 
urge a military alliance between England and the Turks. Walshingham 
hoped for a Turkish attack on Spain that would "divert the dangerous at- 
tempt and designs of [the Spanish] King from these parts of Christen- 
dom." 29 But more than that, Walshingham expressed the hope that Spain 
and Turkey, the two "limbs of the Devil," might weaken each other and 
allow for "the suppression of them both." 30 

Not surprisingly, prophecies of Turkish doom were popular throughout 
Europe during the early modern period. These texts often referred to the Book 
of Revelation and sometimes identified Muhammad with the Antichrist. They 
predicted 1) the recovery of all lands lost to the Turks, and their conversion to 
Christianity; or 2) they foretold the ultimate downfall of the Turks, but often 
after further victories, sometimes including the capture of Italy before they 
would be turned back. Many of these prognostications also named a specific 
monarch or prince (such as Charles V) as the leader of a victorious crusade. 
These prophecies had a particularly eager audience in Germany and Italy, but 
they were widespread (some even circulated in Istanbul), and Europeans were 
"fed for generations" on such predictions about the Turks. 31 

While popular prophecies foretold the downfall of the Ottoman Empire, 
the fear of a black planet — of mass conversion to Islam — increased in in- 
tensity. A typical example of the Europeans' anti-Islamic polemic describes 
the Turks as hell-bent "to the enlarging and amplifying of their Empire and 
religion, with the dayly accesse of new and continuall conquests by the ruine 
and subversion of all such kingdomes, provinces, estates and professions, as 


are any way astraunged from them either in name, nation, or religion." 32 
The Turks seem capable of converting the entire world to their religion: 

they doe think . . . that they are bound by all meanes as much as in them lyeth, 
to amplifie and increase their religion in all partes of the wo ride, both by armes 
and otherwise: And that it is lawfull for them to enforce and compell, to allure, 
to seduce, and to perswade all men to the embracing of their sect and super- 
stitions: and to prosecute all such with fire and sword, as shall either oppose 
themselves against their Religion, or shall refuse to conforme and submit them- 
selves to their ceremonies and traditions. And this they doe to the intent the 
name and doctrine of their Prophet Mahomet may bee everywhere, and of all 
nations, reverenced and embraced. Hence it is that the Turkes doe desire noth- 
ing more then to drawe both Christians and others to embrace their Religion 
and to turne Turke. And they do hold that in so doing they doe God good ser- 
vice, bee it by any meanes good or badde, right or wrong. 33 

For the early modern Europeans, the idea of "turning Turk" (converting to 
Islam) was a sensational subject that inspired anxious fascination. 3 

Interest in the Turks and Islam was on the rise. European readers were of- 
fered numerous descriptions of the "Great Turk" and his court, and the quan- 
tity of material printed on the Ottomans, their culture and religion, increased 
enormously in the seventeenth century. This vast literature on Islam includes 
a genre that gained in popularity at this time: captivity narratives describing 
the sufferings of Christians who were taken prisoner and enslaved by the 
Turks or Moors were printed and read throughout Europe. Christian captives 
recounted their endurance of Turkish or Moorish cruelty and their heroic re- 
fusal to convert. 3 In many such accounts, the narrators told of their service 
as galley slaves or laborers. In 1590, for example, the English gunner Edward 
Webbe published an account of his capture by the Tartars in Moscow and his 
subsequent enslavement in the Crimea and Turkey from 1571 to 1588. He 
describes the condition of the Christian captives living in Turkey: 

[The] poore captives . . . are constrained to abide most vilde and grievous 
tortures, especially the torture and torment of consciens which troubled me 
and all true Christians to the very soule: for the Turk by al meanes possible 
would still perswade me and my other fellow Christians while I was there the 
time of 13 yeares, to forsake Christ, to deny him, and to believe in their God 
Mahomet: which if I would have done, I might have had wonderfull prefer- 
ment of the Turke, and have lived in as great felicitie as any Lord in that 
countrey: but I utterly denyed their request, though by them greevously 
beaten naked for my labour, and reviled in most detestable sort, calling me 
dogge, divell, hellhound, and suchlike names: but I give God thankes he gave 
me strength to abide with patience these crosses. 36 


There were also numerous printed narratives describing the exploits of 
renegades and pirates who had willingly gone over to join the Moors and 
become part of the privateering communities in Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, 
Sallee, and other North African ports. 37 While these "true stories" about 
captives and renegades were being published, fictional texts (including ro- 
mance narratives, epic poetry, and plays) continued to feature the downfall 
of "bad Muslims" and the conversion of "good Muslims" to Christianity. 38 
A stock plot from European romance narrative features a Muslim princess 
who falls in love with a Christian knight, opens the castle of her father, the 
Sultan, so that the Christian knights can capture it in a surprise attack; she 
converts, they get married — and the Sultan either converts or is killed. 39 
On the English stage, in plays such as Robert Daborn's A Christian Turn'd 
Turk (1612) and Philip Massinger's The Renegado (1624), Christians con- 
vert to Islam and pay a terrible price for doing so. In the early modern fic- 
tion of Europe, the only good Muslim is a converted Muslim. Of course, 
this was contrary to the historical conditions of the time: in fact conversion 
to Islam was widespread in the Mediterranean while conversion of Muslims 
to Christianity was extremely rare. 

The account of Islamic religious doctrine and practice produced by 
early modern orientalism bears little resemblance to the religion it pur- 
ports to describe. In popular fiction and drama, pagan Saracens and idol- 
worshipping Moors alike pay homage to a deity called Mahoun or 
Mahound, who is often part of a heathen pantheon that includes Apollin, 
Termagant, and other devilish idols. One such representation of these 
"paynim knights" and their religion is seen in a metrical romance entitled 
The Sowdone of Babylon. In this text, when the Sowdone (i.e., "Sultan") 
Laban is defeated by the Romans, one of his councilors says to him, "To 
tell the truth, our gods hate us. Thou seest, neither Mahoun or Apollin is 
worth a pig's bristle" and when the Sultan has the idols brought before 
him, he tells them: 

Fye upon thee, Appolyn. Thou shalt have an evil end. And much sorrow shall 
come to thee also, Termagant. And as for the, Mahound, Lord of all the reste, 
thou art not worth a mouse's turd. 

He then has his idols beaten with sticks and thrown out of his tent. 

Muslims (or "Mahometans," as they were called) were not only described 
as pagans, there was also a tendency to ignore their religious identity in favor 
of a label that signified a "barbaric" ethnicity. As Bernard Lewis points out: 

Europeans in various parts of the continent showed a curious reluctance to 
call the Muslims by any name with a religious connotation, preferring to call 


them by ethnic names, the obvious purpose of which was to diminish their 
stature and significance and to reduce them to something local or even tribal. 
At various times and various places, Europeans called Muslims Saracens, 
Moors, Turks, Tartars, according to which of the Muslim peoples they have 
encountered. ' 

The Europeans' confusion of various Eastern ethnicities and their misun- 
derstanding of Islamic religious practices were accompanied by a distorted 
picture of the Prophet Muhammad. If he was not depicted as an idol, he 
was described as a renegade and a fraud, and his religion was denounced as 
a heresy founded on deceit and spread by violence. Late medieval and early 
modern accounts of the life of the Prophet and the establishment of Islam 
claim either that Muhammad was a Roman Catholic cardinal who was 
thwarted in his ambition to be elected as pope or that he was a poor camel 
driver who learned from a heretical Syrian monk to cobble together a new 
religion from fragments of Christian and Jewish doctrine. These polemi- 
cal biographies claim that he seduced the Arabian people by fraudulent 
"miracles" and black magic, convincing them by means of "imposture" that 
he was God's chosen prophet. The Qur'an was usually described in terms 
of contempt. The anti-Islamic propaganda directed against the Prophet and 
his Book are typified in a polemical dialogue written by William Bedwell, 
one of the first truly learned Arabists in England. The title of his tract, 
printed in 1615, gives a sense of the Western European attitude toward 
Islam: it is called Mohammedis Imposturare: That is, A Discovery of the Man- 
ifold Forgeries, Falsehoods, and horrible impieties of the blasphemous seducer 
Mohammed: with a demonstration of the insufficiency of his law, contained in 
the cursed Alkoran. 

Islam was narrowly defined and caricatured as a religion of violence and 
lust — aggressive jihad in this world, and sensual pleasure promised in the 
next world. But if the doctrines of Islam were so obviously worthy of 
scorn, what could account for the widespread, rapid growth of Islam? 
Force of arms and successful military aggression, violent conversion by the 
sword — these are often cited by Christian writers in the early modern era 
as an explanation for the astonishing achievement of the Islamic con- 
quests. The early Arab Muslims are described as powerful bandits and 
plunderers, united by a voracious appetite for booty. According to Leo 

. . . there is nothing that hath greatlier furthered the progression of the 
Mahumetan sect, than perpetuitie of victorie, and the greatness of con- 
quests ... In that the greatest part of men, yea, and in a manner all, except 
such as have fastned their confidence upon the cross of Christ, and setled their 


hope in eternity, follow that which best agreeth with sense, and measure the 
grace of God by worldly prosperitie. 

The success of Islam is perversely misinterpreted as a sign of divine grace, 
and the evil instrument of God's wrath gains followers who wish to climb 
aboard the bandwagon of conquest. 

For the people of Western Europe, the worldly wealth and power of Islam 
in the early modern era was both alluring and repellent, fascinating and ter- 
rifying. The European attitude toward Islam and its people is manifest, not 
only in descriptions of Islamic theology or Turkish belligerence, but as part 
of a whole set of stereotypes found also in literature and art, most of which 
represent the "oriental" Other as an external enemy. In many fictional nar- 
ratives, the unity of truth and the survival of Christian virtue are predicated 
upon the struggle against a false, evil empire in the East. While depicting 
Islam and Christianity engaged in a Manichean struggle, the early modern 
demonization of Islam tends to focus upon the overwhelming, absolute 
power of Islamic culture. In these representations, this unlimited power is 
often embodied in an Islamic ruler, a sultan or king whose authority over his 
subjects is equated with the power of a master over his slave. It is therefore, 
by definition, an unjust, tyrannical, and oppressive power. 

An interesting example of the Western image of oriental rule can be seen 
in John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost (first published in 1667). Milton's 
description in Paradise Lost of the greatest demon of all draws upon the Eu- 
ropeans' traditional demonization of Eastern power: Milton's poem gives us 
Satan as Sultan, a puissant oriental despot exhorting an evil horde of mil- 
lions to wage war against God, Christ, and the world. Satan, commanding 
the fallen angels to rise from the lake of fire and regroup, is described as 
"their great Sultan waving to direct/Their course . . . and fill all the plain" 
(1.348—50). Satan's demonic followers are repeatedly identified with Eastern 
pagan gods and given their names (Osiris, Isis, Orus, Dagon, Moloch, 
Thammuz, Belial); and the capital of hell, Pandemonium, is compared with 
Middle Eastern cities: "Not Babylon/Nor great Alcairo such magnifi- 
cence/Equaled in all their glories, to enshrine/Belus or Serapis their gods, or 
seat/Their kings, when Egypt with Assyria strove for wealth and luxury" 
(1.717—22). The fallen angels and their leader are described as Saracen war- 
riors, and the chief hall of their infernal palace is "like a covered field, where 
champions bold/ [were] Wont [to] ride in armed, and at the Soldan's 
chair/Defied the best of paynim chivalry/To mortal combat or career with 
lance" (1.763—66). Satan is enthroned as a glorious Eastern potentate: 

High on a throne of royal state, which far Outshone the wealth of 
Ormus and of Ind, 


Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand 
Show'rs on her kings barbaric pearl and gold, 
Satan exalted sat. . . . (2.1—9) 

In Paradise Lost, Evil comes from the East: Satan is an oriental monarch 
(Lucifer, the shining one — the Eastern morning star) whose proud ambi- 
tion to defeat God and the angels is analogous to the aggressive imperial- 
ism of Eastern emperors such as the Ottoman sultan. According to this 
pattern of associations, the West is angelic; the East is demonic. Although 
this example of demonization is from a text that might be placed in the 
modern category of "fiction," it is, in many ways, a typical example of how 
Islamic powers were associated with evil and represented by European writ- 
ers in both literary and nonliterary forms. Milton's depiction of Satan is 
based upon a predominantly (but not entirely) negative and hostile attitude 
toward Islamic culture, a deeply imbedded way of thinking about the Ori- 
ent that was (and still is) prevalent in the West. 

Western representations of Islamic power are not always derogatory or 
negative; the European image of Islam is contradictory, containing both pos- 
itive and negative features. For example, Milton's presentation of Satan's 
power and fortitude in Books I and II depicts Satan as a heroic leader who 
remains firm in his epic resistance in spite of his defeat and fall. Like the Ot- 
toman regime, which maintained its power despite major defeats such as the 
battle of Ankara (the defeat of Bayazid byTimurlane) in 1402 and the naval 
battle at Lepanto in 1570, Satan rallies his army of devils and unites them 
in a continued effort to defy the forces of Good. Like Satan, the Ottoman 
sultan was seen as a figure of tyranny, pride, and pomp leading an evil em- 
pire in a violent effort to conquer Christendom and extinguish the true 
faith; but at the same time, his imperial accomplishments were admired, 
even envied by European observers. For example, Sir Henry Blount, in an 
account of his travels in the Levant, writes, "He who would behold these 
times in their greatest glory could not find a better Scene than Turkey . . . 
[The Turks] are the only moderne people, great in action . . . whose Empire 
hath so suddenly invaded the world, and fixt itself such firme foundations 
as no other ever did." For Blount, and for many other Christians in Eu- 
rope, the vast wealth, absolute power, and steadfast discipline of the Islamic 
ruler and his loyal, united followers were causes for wonder and esteem. 

Milton's association of Satanic power that the Ottoman sultanate also 
draws upon an image of oriental despotism which was available in classical and 
Hebraic texts. In the Old Testament and in Greek and Roman legends and his- 
tories, the Eastern emperor is an autocrat who rules as God's scourge rather 
than by divine right. His tyrannical power is produced by violence and based 
on fear; he is implacable, paranoid, and utterly self-interested. Examples of 


such despots include Egyptian pharaohs, as well as the Babylonian and Persian 
kings of ancient times. 

The image of the Eastern emperor found in the Bible and in classical 
texts was easily adapted to describe the Islamic caliph or Ottoman sultan. 
These Muslim rulers were then represented as tyrants who exercise an ab- 
solute and arbitrary power, especially over life and death. They are irrational 
and unjust, fond of beheading and other cruel forms of punishment and tor- 
ture (the Ottoman sultans who murdered their own brothers are often men- 
tioned). Their power is a menace to be feared and fought; they are invaders 
plotting to overrun Christendom. 

In Book V, canto 8, of Edmund Spenser's epic poem, The Faerie Queene 
(1594), Spenser's hero, Arthur, fights and defeats an Islamic "Souldan," an 
idolatrous, pagan tyrant who treacherously violates the chivalric codes of 
hospitality and diplomacy, and uses his power unjustly to destroy virtue, ei- 
ther by force or by bribery. The Souldan is an archetype of "lawlesse powre 
and tortious wrong" (5.8.51). At the same time, he is an allegorical version 
of Philip II of Spain, and the slaying of the Souldan by Arthur is symbolic 
of the English victory over the Spanish Armade of 1588. The Souldan rides 
to battle in 

... a charret [chariot] hye, 

With yron wheeles and hookes arm'd dreadfully, 
And drawn of cruel steedes, which he had fed 
With flesh of men, whom through fell tyranny 
He slaughtered had, and ere they were halfe ded, 
Their bodies to his beasts for provedner did spred. (5.8.28) 

Arthur is unable to reach him with his sword. It is only by divine grace (em- 
bodied in the magic power of Arthur's crystal shield) that he is able to defeat 
the Souldan, who is torn to pieces by his own horses — an image of oppressed 
subjects rebelling against and destroying an unjust overlord. Spenser's multi- 
layered allegory draws upon the traditional signification of Islamic-Oriental 
tyranny, as well as the association of papal power with Eastern/Turkish idol- 
atry and injustice, to make the claim that the Protestant cause is one of "ho- 
nour" and "right" (5.8.30), as opposed to the pride and despotism of both 
Islam and Roman Catholicism. 

Closely related to the stereotypical conception of oriental kingship are 
the ideas of vast wealth and sensual luxury. These tend to be personal fea- 
tures of the Eastern potentate represented by the West, but they also refer to 
commercial realities — particularly the huge profits that could be made trad- 
ing in the Islamic ports of the southern and eastern Mediterranean. Valu- 
able luxury goods came to Europe from the East, including silk, carpets, 


spices, gold, and incense. European writers, like Mandeville, wrote of the 
spectacular, exotic wealth and splendor that was allegedly to be found in the 
courts of African and Asian princes. Accounts of vast riches are found in 
many early modern "descriptions" of foreign lands and palaces, including 
descriptions of the seraglio of the "Great Turk" in Istanbul. Such images of 
Oriental wealth provided material for the spectacle of Renaissance theater 
and court masque. In Robert Greene's heroic play Orlando Furioso (1594), 
to cite just one example, Orlando plans to defeat his Saracen foes and return 
to France for a wedding, his ship is laden with luxury goods: 

Our Sailes of Sendell spread into the winde; 
Our ropes and tacklings all of finest silk, 
Fetcht from the native loonies of labouring wormes, 
The pride of Barbarie, and the glorious wealth 
That is transported by the Westerne bounds; 
Our stems cut out of gleaming ivories; 
Our planks and sides framde out of Cypresse wood, 
... So rich shall be the rubbish of our Barkes, 
Tane here for ballas to the ports of France, 
That Charles himself shall wonder at the sight. 
(11. 1586-1601) 

This fabulous version of "venture capitalism" is a fantasy based upon the lu- 
crative adventures of real merchants such as Roger Bodenham, whose 1550 
voyage to Candia (Crete) and Chios is recorded in Hakluyt's Principal Nav- 
igations (1598—1600), and includes hair-breadth escapes and skirmishes 
with Turkish galleys. 

The Mediterranean was the setting for many "true" stories about Islamic 
power at sea and in the commercial ports controlled by the Ottomans. 
Printed accounts of Turkish or Barbary galleys attacking Christian mer- 
chants present and confirm the Western stereotype that associates Islam with 
acts of violence, treachery, cruelty, and wrath. In literature and legend, Is- 
lamic "Saracens," "Turks," and "Moors" frequently appear as ranting, irra- 
tional, fanatical killers who practice treachery, oath-breaking, 
double-dealing, enslavement, piracy, and terrorism. From the Saracen 
knights of medieval romance to the Barbary pirates and Turkish pashas of 
early modern "report," tales of hostage-taking and captivity have been em- 
phasized in Western narratives about the Islamic world. 50 In medieval and 
early modern narratives, these Islamic villains usually come to a violent end, 
howling obscene curses and shrieking as their souls go straight to hell. 

Taking The Faerie Qiieene once again as an example, we encounter in 
Book I of Spenser's epic three "paynim knights," Sans Loy, Sans Joy, and 
Sans Foy, allegorical representations of the evil and violence that result from 


faithlessness: they call on their "paynim" idols and then, in defeat, curse their 
own gods for giving victory to Spenser's hero, the Redcrosse knight. Sans 
Foy appears in Book I of The Faerie Qiteene, accompanied by Duessa, the 
scarlet whore of Babylon who wears "a Persian mitre on her hed" (1.1.13). 
When Sans Foy encounters Redcrosse, he exclaims, "Curse upon that 
Crosse . . . that keepes thy body from the bitter fit" (1.2.18). As a pagan 
idolater, Sans Foy misinterprets the red crusader's cross of St. George, think- 
ing that it is an amulet worn to avert evil, not an outward sign of the inner 
faith that is the true source of Redcrosse's strength. Sans Foy is given a death- 
blow by Redcrosse, and his soul is sent directly to hell: "his grudging ghost 
did strive/With the fraile flesh; at last it flitted is,/Whither the soules do fly 
of men, that live amis" (1.2.19). In the next canto, his brother Sans Loy, a 
"proud Paynim . . . full of wrath" (1.3.35), appears seeking revenge. In these 
episodes and throughout Book I of The Faerie Queene, Spenser draws upon 
the popular, romance tradition's representation of Islam to supply his chival- 
ric allegory with images of false faith and exotic evil. 

Sans Foy and Sans Loy are obviously and aggressively evil, and so Red- 
crosse is able to recognize and defeat them, but it is the disguised, seductive 
evil of Duessa, the whore of Babylon, that leads Redcrosse into temptation, 
defeat, and imprisonment. His downfall is emphatically eroticized: it is a 
sexual seduction accomplished by the oriental courtesan-sorceress Duessa, 
who is really a hideous hag, but uses her magic to appear beautiful. The de- 
scription of Duessa's appearance after her triumph over Redcrosse is based 
on Revelation 17:3—4: "I saw a woman sit upon a skarlat coloured beast, full 
of names of blasphemie. . . . And the woman was araied in purple and skar- 
lat, and guilded with golde, and precious stones, and pearles" (Geneva 
Bible). She is "great Babylon, the mother of whoredomes," whose cup con- 
tains "the filth of her fornication." Babylon is repeatedly identified with 
Rome in the Geneva Bible's marginal gloss to the Book of Revelation. The 
gloss explains that she represents "the new Rome which is the Papistrie, 
whose crueltie and blood sheding is declared by skarlat," but the place-name 
"Bablyon" also refers to Cairo and Baghdad, Islamic cities of great wealth 
and splendor. The Fall of Bablyon is the "fall of that great whore of Rome" 
that shall be accompanied by the fall of "all strange religions, as of the Jews, 
Turks and others" (Geneva Bible commentary, 16:19). 

Spenser's representation of oriental evil relies upon Protestant readings of 
Revelation, but it also derives its significance from the traditional Western 
representation of Islamic society in the Levant. The private life of wealthy 
Arabs, Moors, and Turks was said to be one of hidden sin, and their houses 
and palaces were described as locations for unbridled sensuality, exotic eroti- 
cism, lust, and lechery. In European descriptions of Islamic society, the 
harem, polygamy, and concubinage are frequently presented as if they were 


universally practiced by the Muslims. As Samuel Chew has observed, "The 
interest of Europeans centered with a natural though often prurient curios- 
ity upon the Seraglio . . . because in it were practiced, or were reported to be 
practiced, barbarous cruelties and extravagant sensualities which were none 
the less frequently described for being characterized as indescribable." 
Courtly, upper-class customs (especially those of the Ottoman ruling class) 
were best known by European readers and so published reports that claimed 
to describe the seraglio and the harem produced an image of Islamic sexual- 
ity that made the Ottoman sultan's palace a proverbial site for sexual excess, 
sadistic entertainments, and private, pornographic spectacle. When Edgar, 
in Shakespeare's King Lear, recites his sins and speaks of his sexual excesses, 
he claims that he had "in woman, out-paramoured the Turk" (3.4.92). 

Both sexual excess and sexual repression are emphasized in Western ac- 
counts of Eastern sexuality. The notion of a veiled, hidden lust that mas- 
querades as virtue and chastity (Duessa, the whore of Babylon, being an 
example of this) is typically a characteristic of the Islamic woman in West- 
ern European texts. The virtuous Muslim woman often converts to Chris- 
tianity, "saved" by the love of a good Christian man. 52 

In medieval and Renaissance accounts of Islam, "Mahomet's paradise" is 
described as a false vision of sexual and sensual delights with its nubile 
houris, rivers of wine, and luxurious gardens. One such account of Islamic 
eschatology is found in The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (a text that began 
to circulate in manuscript around 1356—66). Mandeville approves the Is- 
lamic belief in heaven, hell, and divine judgment, and goes so far as to find 
great compatibility between Islamic and Christian doctrine, but he finds the 
Muslims' description of paradise to be one of their major errors: 

if they are asked what paradise they are talking about, they say it is a place of de- 
lights, where a man shall find all kinds of fruit at all seasons of the year, and rivers 
running with wine, and milk, and honey, and clear water; they say they will have 
beautiful palaces and fine great mansions, according to their desserts, and that 
these palaces and mansions are made of precious stones, gold and silver. Every 
man shall have four score wives, who will be beautiful damsels, and he shall lie 
with them whenever he wishes, and he will always find them virgins. 53 

Christian writers not only criticized Islam for offering sensual pleasure as a 
reward to the virtuous in the next life, they also condemned the sexual free- 
dom allowed in this life under Muslim law. Islamic regulations governing 
concubinage, marriage, and divorce were misunderstood and reviled by 
Western Europeans. 5 Alexandre du Pont, in his Roman de Mahomet, main- 
tains that the Prophet permitted every Muslim man to marry ten wives, and 
every Muslim woman to marry ten times as well. 55 According to John Pory, 


who translated Leo Africanus's History and Description of Africa into English 
in 1600, the religious law of Muhammad "looseth the bridle to the flesh, 
which is a thing acceptable to the greatest part of men." Pory and others 
claimed that the attraction of conversion to Islam — and the reluctance of 
Muslims to convert to Christianity — was based primarily upon the greater 
sexual freedom allowed under Islamic law. 

The alleged sexual excesses of the Muslims or Turks were linked to those 
of the Moors or Black Africans, who are frequently described in the Western 
tradition as a people naturally given to promiscuity. 57 Leo Africanus says of 
the North African Moors that there is "no nation under heaven more prone 
to venerie. ... 

"White" Europeans interpreted the blackness of the Moors as a sign of in- 
born evil. The Christian myth that explains the origins of the dark-skinned 
races, including the Moorish Muslims of Africa, is derived from the Old Tes- 
tament story of Ham (or Cham), son of Noah, who was cursed for beholding 
the nakedness of his father. Ham was said to be the original progenitor of the 
black races, whose skin color was the outward sign of an inherited curse, vis- 
ited upon Ham and his offspring by God. Furthermore, the black or dark skin 
of Moors and other Muslim people of color was compared by fair-skinned Eu- 
ropeans with the color of the devils, burnt black by the flames of hell. 

The stage Moor of early modern Europe was an actor in blackface. When 
a "Moor" like Shakespeare's Othello appeared on the London stage in the 
sixteenth or seventeenth centuries, he was essentially an emblematic figure, 
not a "naturalistic" portrayal of a particular ethnic type. 59 As John Gillies re- 
minds readers of Othello, "... the sharper, more elaborately differentiated 
and more hierarchical character of post-Elizabethan constructions of racial 
difference are inappropriate to the problems posed by the Elizabethan 
other." Othello is not to be identified with a specific, historically accurate 
racial category; rather, he is a dramatic symbol of a dark, threatening power 
at the edge of Christendom. As such, Othello the Moor is associated with a 
whole set of related terms — "Moor," "Turk," "Ottomite," "Saracen," "Ma- 
hometan," "Egyptian," "Judean," "Indian" — all constructed in opposition to 
Christian faith and virtue. 

Looking particularly at the significance of Othello's epithet, "the Moor," 
G. K. Hunter describes how this term was understood: 

"The word 'Moor' had no clear racial status" to begin with; "its first meaning 
in the O.E.D. is 'Mahmoden,'" which itself meant merely "infidel," "non- 
Christian," "barbarian." "Moors were, as foreign infidels, virtually equivalent 
to Turks: 'the word "Moor" was very vague enthnographically, and very often 
seems to have meant little more than 'black-skinned outsider,' but it was not 


vague in its antithetical relationship to the European norm of the civilized 
white Christian." 

The Moors of North Africa were identified with Islam, and the term 
"Moor" (along with its cognates in other European languages) is one of a 
whole group of terms that were lumped together and associated, in the 
minds of early modern Europeans, with the worship of Mahomet. The 
words "Moor" and "Turk" were sometimes used with a specific reference to 
the people of Turkey or Morocco, but more often they signified a general- 
ized Islamic Other. 

Whether imagined as a black-skinned African Moor, or as a robed and 
turbaned Turk, the physical, external difference of the Islamic Other was 
often read as a sign of demonic darkness and barbaric ignorance. This point 
may be linked to one more aspect of Western stereotyping — the representa- 
tion of Saracens, Moors, and Turks as embodiments of evil. We have seen 
this already in representations of evil that exhibit Islamic, "oriental" features 
(such as Spenser's depiction of the Saracen brothers and Duessa, or Milton's 
sultanic Satan), but the stereotype is also employed directly to reveal the sup- 
posed iniquity of Islam and to portray Islamic people as agents of evil. 

As we have seen, Islam's purported evil is sometimes radically demonized 
and made into a monster. On other occasions, it is associated with the evil 
of black magic, occult power, and the worship of devils or idols, but such 
representations usually occur in popular culture, or in societies that had lit- 
tle direct contact with Islamic culture. For more learned Europeans who 
were placed in closer proximity to North Africa or to the lands ruled by the 
Ottoman Turks, it was difficult to demonize Islam in such a way. As Jack 
DAmico has observed, 

the problem of containing Islam, politically and intellectually, was made more 
difficult by those respects in which Islamic culture was actually superior. . . . 
A more potent and seductive foe, Islam had to be represented as a dangerous 
distortion of the true Church, a parody of civilization, its Mohammed a false 
prophet, its Jihad a perversion of the Crusade, its book, the Koran, a collec- 
tion of errors and lies that mocked the Bible. 62 

Nonetheless, there were Europeans who rejected both the popular and 
learned demonizations of Islam: not all Europeans believed in the accuracy 
of the negative stereotypes. Some of those who traveled to the Islamic world, 
observing the achievements and institutions of that culture with their own 
eyes, were able to praise rather than revile. For example, the French traveler 
Jean Thevenot, who went to Turkey in 1652, observed: 


There are many in Christendom who believe that the Turks are great devils, 
barbarians, and people without faith, but those who have known them and 
who have talked with them have quite a different opinion; since it is certain 
that the Turks are good people who follow very well the commandment given 
us by nature, only to do to others what we would have done to us. 3 

And the French philosopher Jean Bodin, writing in the sixteenth century, re- 
ported that: 

The King of the Turks, who rules over a great part of Europe, safeguards the 
rites of religion as well as any prince in the world. Yet, he constrains no one, 
but on the contrary permits everyone to live as his conscience dictates. What 
is more, even in his seraglio at Pera he permits the practice of four diverse re- 
ligions, that of the Jews, the Christians according to the Roman rite, and ac- 
cording to the Greek rite, and that of Islam. 6 

Such views, however, were rare and were not usually shared by those Euro- 
peans who did not have the chance to visit the Middle East. It was not until 
the second half of the seventeenth century that voices in favor of toleration 
and openness toward Islam were widely heard. 

Unfortunately, the demonization of Islam and misunderstanding of Is- 
lamic society and religion that this essay recounts are still prevalent in the 
dominant ideology of the West. Today, many of the stereotypes described 
above continue to shape the image of Islam produced by the mass media in 
North America, Europe, and other parts of the world. If we examine, in 
particular, the American representations of Islam in mass media journalism 
during the last 10 or 15 years, we will find ample evidence for an unbroken 
tradition depicting Islamic people as violent, cruel, wrathful, lustful, and so 
on. With the end of the Cold War, America needed a new ideological bogey 
man to serve as an alleged external threat; and perhaps this explains the re- 
cent resurgence of anti-Islamic imagery, a revival that draws upon a venera- 
ble tradition of anti-Islamic demonization that began in the medieval period 
and acquired some of its present features in the sixteenth and seventeenth 


For detailed information about these authors and their works, consult Nor- 
man Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (Edinburgh, 1 960) . 
See also James Kritzeck, Peter the Venerable and Islam (Princeton, 1964). 
Dorothee Metlitzki, The Matter of Araby in Medieval England (New 
Haven, Conn., 1977), 161. For further analyses of the romance tradition 


in Europe and the depiction of Islamic figures in romance, see chapter 6, 
"History and Romance," in Metlitzki; as well as Noman Daniel, Heroes 
and Saracens: An Interpretation of the "Chansons de Geste" (Edinburgh, 
1984); C. Meredith Jones, "The Conventional Saracen of the Songs of 
Geste," Speculum 17 (1942): 201—25; and two articles by William Wistar 
Comfort, "The Literary Role of the Saracen in the French Epic," Proceed- 
ings of the Modern Language Association 55 (1940): 628—59, and "The 
Saracens in Italian Epic Poetry," Proceedings of the Modern Language Asso- 
ciation 59 (1994): 882-910. 

3. Edward Said, Orientalism (New York, 1978): "Quite literally, the [French] 
occupation [of Egypt in 1798] gave birth to the entire modern experience of 
the Orient as interpreted from within the universe of discourse founded by 
Napoleon in Egypt . . ." (87). 

4. W. Montgomery Watt, Muslim-Christian Encounters: Perceptions and Misper- 
ceptions (London, 1991), 88. 

5. Samir Amin, Eurocentrism (New York, 1989), 10. 

6. Amin, Eurocentrism, 10. 

7. Richard Knolles, History of the Turks (London, 1603). 

8. See Samuel C. Chew, '"The Present Terror in the World,'" The Crescent and 
the Rose: Islam and England during the Renaissance (New York, 1937). 

9. A Short Forme of Thanksgiving to God for the Delyverie of the Isle of Malta 
(1565), reprinted in Liturgical Services of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth: Litur- 
gies and Occasional Forms of Prayer set forth in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, 
ed. William K. Clay (Cambridge, 1847). 

10. Ibid., 522, 532-33. 

11. Correspondence of Sidney and Languet, ed. W A. Bradley (Boston, 1912), 

12. Coelius Augustinius Curio, A Notable History of the Saracens, trans. Thomas 
Newton (London, 1575). 

13. Anonymous, The Policy of the Turkish Empire (London, 1597), A3v. 

14. See Dorothy M. Vaughan, Europe and the Turk: A Pattern of Alliances, 
1350-1700 (Liverpool, 1954), 134. 

1 5. Mentioned in Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr., A Concise History of the Middle East, 
3d ed. (Boulder, Co., 1988), 132. 

16. Vaughan, Europe and the Turk, 134—46; and Kenneth M. Setton, 
"Lutheranism and the Turkish Peril," Balkan Studies 3 (1962): 136—65. 

17. Vaughan, Europe and the Turk, 135. 

18. Franklin L. Baumer, "England, the Turk, and the Common Corps of Chris- 
tendom," American Historical Review 50 (1945): 26— 48. 

19. Cited in Setton, "Lutheranism," 151. 

20. William Gravet, A Sermon Preached at Paules Cross . . . intreating of the holy 
Scriptures, and the use of the same (London, 1587), 50—51. 

21. Consult Christopher Tyerman, England and the Crusades (Chicago, 1988) and 
Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades (Cambridge, Mass., 1987) on the persis- 
tence of the crusading movement and crusading rhetoric into the sixteenth and 


seventeenth centuries. See Tyerman (359—70) on the rhetoric of crusade used 
by both the English and the Spanish in their conflict during the sixteenth cen- 
tury. Of course, the papacy had frequently called for crusades against all forms 
of paganism and heresy, for example at the time of the Albigensian crusade. 

22. Cited in Riley-Smith, The Crusades, 242. 

23. Reginald Pole, The seditious and blasphemous Oration of Cardinal Pole . . . 
Translated into englysh by Fabyane Wythers (London, 1 560) A3— 3v. This was 
originally written in Latin and published in 1536. It was entitled Pro Eccle- 
siasticae Unitatis Defensione. When Fabian Withers translated Cardinal Pole's 
Latin into English in 1560, he included an anti-Catholic gloss that counters 
Pole's claim that the Protestants were infidels: "This is the general and nat- 
ural sense of all the popysh secte to count all them which have professed the 
gospell for turkes and worse than turkes . . ."(CI). 

24. Cited in Kenneth M. Setton, Western Hostility to Islam and Prophecies of 
Turkish Doom (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1992), 41—42. 

25. Cited in Riley-Smith, The Crusades, 242. 

26. See the conclusions of Tyerman and Riley-Smith. 

27. Luis Vaz de Camoes, The Lusiads, trans. William K. Atkinson (London: Pen- 
guin, 1952). 162-63. 

28. See Kenneth M. Setton, The Papacy and the Levant, 1204-1571, 4 vols. 
(Philadelphia, 1976-84). 

29. Baumer, "England and the Turk," 39. 

30. Cited in Baumer, 39. 

31. Sutton, Western Hostility, 41. 

32. The Policy, A3v-A4r. 

33. The Policy, B4v-B5r. 

34. See Nabil Matar, "'Turning Turk': Conversion to Islam in English Renais- 
sance Thought," Durham University Journal 86 (1994): 33—42. 

35. The most widely read captivity narratives of this time were certainly those of 
the Croation Bartholomaeus Georgievicz, a nobleman taken prisoner by the 
Turks at the battle of Mohacs in 1526. He spent ten years as a slave in Is- 
tanbul, Thrace, and Asia Minor. His writings were printed in many editions 
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and translated into many lan- 
guages. See his De Turcarum moribus epitome (Lyon, 1553), which was 
printed more than a dozen times in the sixteenth century; and De ajflictione 
tarn captivorum quam etiam sub Turcae tributo viventium Christianorum 
(Antwerp, 1544). See also the captivity narratives included in Richard Hak- 
luyt's Principal Navigations (London, 1598—1600), especially the sensational 
"worthy enterprises of John Fox an Englishman in delivering 266 Christians 
out of the captivity of the Turks at Alexandria, the 3 of January 1577." 

36. Edward Webbe, The Rare and most wonderful thinges which Edward Webbe 
an Englishman borne, hath seene and passed in his troublesome travailes . . . 
(London, 1590; repr. 1869, ed. Edward Arber), 29. 

37- See, for example, Andrew Barker, A true and certaine report of. . . the Es- 
tate of Captaine Ward and Danseker, the two late famous Pirates (London, 


1609). For a comprehensive account of how these renegades were repre- 
sented in English culture, refer to Nabil Matar, "The Renegades in English 
Seventeenth-Century Imagination," Studies in English Literature 33 
(1993): 489-505. 

38. On the literary treatment of the Turks in the Renaissance, see Samuel C. 
Chew, The Crescent and the Rose: Islam and England during the Renaissance 
(New York, 1937); Clarence D. Rouillard, The Turk in French History, 
Thought, and Literature, 1520-1660 (Paris, 1938); and Albert Mas, Les Turcs 
dans la Litterature Espagnole du Siecle d'Or, 2 vols. (Paris, 1967). 

39. See Metlitzki, The Matter of Araby, 160-92. 

40. Cited in Chew, The Crescent and the Rose, 392. 

41. Bernard Lewis, Islam and the West (Oxford, 1993), 7. 

42. On the polemical biography of Muhammad, see Norman Daniel, "The Life 
of Muhammed" in Islam and the West; the section on "'Mahomet and Mede': 
The Treatment of Islam" in Metlitzki, The Matter of Araby, 197—210; and 
chapter 9, "The Prophet and his Book" in Chew, The Crescent and the Rose. 

43. Leo Africanus, The History and Description of Africa, ed. Robert Brown, 
trans. John Pory, 3 vols. (London, 1896), 3:1019. 

44. It is important to note that this kind of dehumanization and demonization of 
the Other is not unique or inherent to Western thought or literature (as Edward 
Said and others sometimes imply). The West itself has often been the object of 
such demonization on the part of non-Western cultures (including Islamic cul- 
ture's representation of the "Great Satan," America). Today, the West is partic- 
ularly distinguished in its dehumanization of the Other because it is a 
dominant, global culture and power. Thus the West's cultural mechanism of de- 
monization is more visible in the world and is perhaps a more damaging prob- 
lem, but it is certainly not a mechanism that operates in Western culture only. 

45. Sir Henry Blount, A Voyage into the Levant (London, 1636), 2—3. 

46. See, for example, R. M., Learne of a Turke; or instructions and advise sent from 
the Turkish Army at Constantinople to the English army at London (London, 

47. On the movement of merchant ships and commodities between Europe and 
the Middle East during this period in the Mediterranean, see T S. Willan, 
"Some Aspects of English Trade with the Levant in the Sixteenth Century," 
English Historical Review 70 (1955): 399^10; and Ralph Davis, "England 
and the Mediterranean, 1570—1670," in Essays in Economic and Social His- 
tory of Tudor and Stuart England in Honour of R. H. Tawney, ed. E J. Fisher 
(Cambridge, 1961), 117-37. 

48. See, for example, Robert Withers, A Description of the Grand Signor's 
Seraglio, or the Turkish Emperor's Court (London, 1650). 

49. Reprinted in Richard Hakluyt, Voyages and Discoveries, ed. Jack Beeching 
(New York, 1972), 52-55. 

50. See Matar, "The Renegade in English Seventeenth-Century Imagination." 

5 1 . Chew, The Crescent and the Rose, 1 92 . For a few more summaries of such ac- 
counts see idem, 192—95. 


52. See Metlitzki, The Matter of Araby, Y]JW. 

53. The Travels of Sir John Mandevllle, ed., C. W. R. D. Moseley (London, 
1983), 104. 

54. See Daniel, Islam and the West, 135^0. 

55. Cited in Daniel, Islam and the West, 145. 

56. Leo Africanus, 3:1008. 

57- See Jack D'Amico, The Moor in English Renaissance Drama (Tampa, Florida, 
1991), 63ff; and Eldred Jones, Othello's Countrymen: The African in English 
Renaissance Drama (London, 1965), 1—26. 

5 8 . History and Description of Africa, 1:180. 

59. For more information about the figure of the Moor on the London stage, 
consult D'Amico, The Moor; Ruth Cowhig, "Blacks in English Renaissance 
Drama and the Role of Shakespeare's Othello," in The Black Presence in Eng- 
lish literature, ed. D. Dabydeen (Manchester, 1985); Elliot Tokson, The 
Popular Image of the Black Man in English Drama, 1550—1688 (Boston, 
1982); and Jones, Othello's Countrymen. 

60. John Gillies, Shakespeare and the Geography of Difference (Cambridge, 1994), 

61. G. K. Hunter, "Othello and Colour Prejudice," Proceedings of the British 
Academy 53 (1967): 147. 

62. D'Amico, The Moor, 75-76. 

63. Cited in Lewis, Islam and the West, 80. 

64. Cited in Paul Coles, The Ottoman Impact on Europe (New York, 1968), 151. 

65. See, for example, the authors cited in Nabil Matar, "Islam in Interregnum 
and Restoration England," The Seventeenth Century 6 (1991): 57—71. 

66. Edward Said has made this point eloquently and persuasively in his book, 
Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the 
World (London, 1981). See also John L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth 
or Reality? (Oxford, 1992) for a more recent treatment of the subject. 

List of Contributors 

Gloria Allaire, Gettysburg College. 

Nancy Bisaha, Vassar College. 

David R. Blanks, American University in Cairo. 

Jo Ann Hoeppner Moran Cruz, Georgetown University. 

Nina Dulin-Mallory, LaGrange College. 

Michael Frassetto, Encyclopaedia Britannica. 

Donald J. Kagay, Albany State College. 

Ernest N. Kaulbach, University of Texas, Austin. 

Alauddin Samarrai, St. Cloud University. 

John V. Tolan, University of Toulouse. 

Daniel J. Vitkus, American University in Cairo. 

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Ademar of Chabannes, 5, 83—91 
Alexander of Hales, 6, 147, 148, 

152-53, 154, 155, 158 
Aljama, 124, 126 
Allah, 14, 130 
Amiravissus, 105, 107 
Ammianus Marcellinus, 1 
Anabaptists, 35 
al-Andalus, 121, 210 
Andrea da Barbarino, 173—76, 178, 

180, 181 
Antichrist, 5, 58, 84, 85, 87, 89, 101, 

108, 138, 212, 214 
Apollin, 57, 58, 84, 139, 176, 216 
Aquinas, St. Thomas, 139, 141 
Aquitiane, 84, 86, 88-90 
Arian, Arianism, 86-89, 137, 138 
Aristotle, 1, 4, 139, 141, 147, 149, 

151, 155 
Arthur, 167, 168, 171, 220 
Augustine of Hippo, St., 149-52, 154, 

155, 156, 158 
Averroes, 30, 139, 141, 166 
Avicenna, 4, 30, 141, 150, 151, 153, 

154, 155, 156, 166 
Aymeri of Narbonne, 58 

Bacon, Roger, 61, 67, 69, 70, 141, 142 
Bede, Venerable, 153, 155 

Bitterli, Urs, 39 

Book of Revelation, 212, 214, 222 

Bracciolini, Poggio, 185, 190 

Bruni, Leonardo, 6, 189-90, 193, 197 

Cairo, 19, 24, 37, 222 

Calvin, John, 35 

Cantari d'Aspramonte, 175—80 

Cervantes, 4, 32 

Chanson d'Antioche, 106, 109, 110 

Chanson de Roland, 56-59, 121, 139, 

173, 174 
chansons de geste, 7, 23, 29, 32, 33, 

38, 56, 84, 121, 123, 174, 175, 

177, 178, 209 
Charlemagne, 58, 59, 60, 138, 171, 

180, 188 
Charles V, 212-214 
Chew, Samuel C, 19, 31, 36, 188, 

196, 222 
Cold War, 20, 31, 32, 119, 129, 226 
Constantinople, 4, 33, 34, 128, 129, 

185, 188, 190-93, 196, 210, 

convivencia, 127—28 
Copperfield, David, 165 
crusade, 2, 12, 18, 21, 22, 29, 30, 58, 

60, 63, 65, 66, 68, 69, 70, 130, 

166, 185-87, 191, 196, 212-14 



First Crusade, 5, 62, 84, 98, 99, 100, 

105, 107, 109, 111, 130, 186 
Fifth Crusade, 62 
Curbaan, 103-105 

d'Alverny, Marie-Therese, 65 
Daniel, Norman, 13, 16, 19, 24-29, 

31, 37, 66,208,226 
Dante, 15, 61, 141, 175 
Disreali, Benjamin, 11, 12 

Eleanor of Aquitaine, 63 
Elizabeth I, 214 

Jews, 85-87, 90, 91, 106, 109, 126, 

130, 222, 226 
Judaism, 4, 208 
John of Segovia, 25, 27, 30-32, 70 
Jones, Meredith C, 26, 23, 29, 176, 


Lancelot, 167, 168, 169, 171 

Leo Africanus, 217, 224 

Lewis, Bernard, 26, 216 

Lull, Ramon, 16, 17, 18, 62, 69, 70, 

128, 129,208 
Luther, Martin, 17, 35, 212 

Al-Farabi, 30, 166 

Fierabmccia, 176, 177, 178, 179, 181 
Filelfo, Francesco, 194, 196 
Fulcher of Chartres, 12, 40, 62 
Fulke Greville, 211 

Glossa Ordinaria, 6, 147, 148, 149, 

151, 152, 153, 155, 156 
Guerrino il Meschino, 173—80 
Guibert of Nogent, 21, 65, 84, 86, 99 

al-Hakim, 84-85 
Hapsburg, 211, 212 
Hermann of Dalmata, 208 
Herodotus, 12, 35, 142 
Humanism/Humanists, 185—98 
Humbert of Romans, 65, 66 

Innocent III, Pope, 30, 128 

Isidore of Seville, 120, 152, 153, 155, 

158, 159 
Isolt, 166-71 

James I, King of Aragon, 5, 123—25, 
126, 127 

Jean de la Rochelle, 6, 147, 148, 

Jesus Christ, 18, 22, 25, 26, 99, 100, 
101, 103-106, 108, 109, 111, 
130, 148, 149, 158-61, 208, 
211, 212, 215, 217, 218 

Machomet, 99, 103, 105 

Macone, 176, 180 

Mahomet, 57, 58, 98, 109, 139, 176, 

209, 210, 215, 216, 223, 224, 

Mahound, 308,216 
Mahummet, 107, 108 
Maimonides, 139 
Majolus, Abbot of Cluny, 84, 138 
Malory, Thomas, 6, 165-67, 169, 

Mandeville, John, 220, 223 
Manichean, 86, 90, 218 
Mark of Toledo, 65,208 
Mehmed II, Ottoman emperor, 195, 

Milton, John, 218-19, 225 
Moore, R. I., 5, 83, 91 
Moors, 3, 123, 127, 215-17, 221, 

Morgante, 175-81 
moriscos, 130 

Morte Darthur, 6, 166-71 
mudejar, 120, 122, 123, 125, 126, 128, 

Muhammad, 2, 3, 16-18, 24, 58, 

64-66, 68, 69, 71, 84, 88, 89, 

99, 126, 127, 137-^0, 141, 175, 

176, 208, 214, 217, 225 

Napoleon, 209 


Nicholas of Cusa, 11, 30, 32, 41, 70, 

Orientalism, 3, 7 
Othello, 224 
Otto of Freising, 63, 65 
Ottoman Empire, 2, 14, 128, 193, 
194, 210 

Palomides, 9, 165-71 

Peter the Lombard, 147, 148, 149, 

150, 152, 153 
Peter the Venerable, 4, 17, 21-23, 28, 

29,65,69, 83, 84, 86-88, 91, 

138, 208, 226 
Petrarch, 6, 188-89, 190 
Petrus Tudebodus, 5, 100-107, 110 
Phillip the Chancellor, 6, 147, 148, 

Piers Plowman, 6, 62, 156, 158, 159, 

Polo, Marco, 64, 67, 69 
PoemofElCid, 60, 121 
Pius II, Pope (Aeneas Sylius 

Piccolomini), 46, 70, 191-92, 

194, 196-98 
Prester John, 61, 63-64 

Questing Beast, 167—69 
Quirini, Lauro, 191—92 
Qur'an, 6, 16, 21, 25, 30, 64, 65, 66, 
69, 70, 84, 141,217 

Rambaldo, 176, 178-180 
Raoul de Caen, 100, 107, 108 
Raymond d'Aquilers, 99, 100, 105-108 
Reconquista, 2, 12, 209 
Reformation, 10, 16, 186, 198, 211 
Renaissance, 3, 6, 16, 19, 24, 32, 34, 

35, 141, 147, 174, 175, 176, 

179, 187, 198, 208, 210,221, 

Richard I, the Lion-Hearted, 63, 68, 

Ricoldo da Monte Croce, 208 

Robert of Ketton, 4, 65, 69, 83, 87, 

88, 208 
Roman de Palamede, 2, 166, 167 
Roncesvalle, Battle of, 178 

Sabellians, 86-88 

Said, Edward, 7, 12, 16, 17, 18, 24, 
26,27,29, 38, 56, 187, 198, 

Saracen, 3,6, 16,23,29,31, 33, 

56-60, 63, 65, 68, 83-91, 98, 
99, 101, 105, 106, 108-110, 
124, 127, 155, 156, 160, 165, 
166, 168, 169, 170, 172, 
173-81, 189,209,211, 
216-218,221,224, 225 

Salah al-Din, 4, 15, 22, 140, 141, 166, 

Salutati, Coluccio, 194-95, 198 

Schwoebel, Robert, 32—35 

Shakespeare, William, 223, 224 

Sidney, Sir Philip, 7,211 

Southern, Richard, 2, 3, 8, 20, 24, 
29-31, 83, 139 

Spenser, Edmund, 168, 221—23 

ta'ifa, 120, 122, 123 
Tancred, 104, 107, 108 
The Moslem World, 16, 26, 35, 37 
Thiemo, 97-98, 101, 102, 109, 110 
Thomas Becket, 63 
Tristan, 166-71 

Tristan cycle, 166, 167, 170, 171 
Turks, 102, 103, 107, 185-98,210-15, 
222, 225 

Usatges of Barcelona, 121—22, 125 

Watt, W Montgomery, 25, 37, 208 
Willehalm, 59, 60, 61 
William of Malmesbury, 65 
William of Orange, 57-59 
Wolfram of Eschenbach, 59—61 

Zwemer, Samuel, 16—17, 18